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Subject: ETHI: 2 messages
From: Hans Goerl <GENETHICS@delphi.com>
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 1997 09:26:21 -0400

This ETHI message has two sections.

1. Excerpts from a speech by President Clinton on Monday July 14
2. An observation/question about what it is that makes us "human".

The ETHI section has been quiet this Summer (my apologies to our Southern
Hemisphere subscribers). We welcome any challenging questions, interesting
observations, calls for assistance or reports about the social, legal,
psychological, philosophical or teleological implications of genetics.
Our subscribers come from 64 countries and hundreds of cultures, each
of which is or will be affected in different ways.

Hans Goerl
ETHI editor

  1) Excerpts from remarks by President Bill Clinton in announcing his
support for legislation prohibiting genetic discrimination by health
insurers in the US.

   "The remarkable strides that we have seen in genetic research and
testing are so important to every American family.  Chances are, every
family represented in this room in our lifetime will have a child, a
grandchild, a cousin, a niece, a nephew somehow benefited from the work  of
the Human Genome Project, which seemed nothing more than an  intellectual
dream just a few years ago.  And one of the things that we  have to do is to
make sure that every American family has a chance to  benefit from it."


    "And as with every kind of decision like this, there is always
the possibility that what we learn can not only be used but can be misused.
 And in all of this era of scientific discovery, there is probably no

greater promise for use or for misuse than in the area of genetic  testing.
 Used in the right way, obviously it has the chances to save  millions of

lives and revolutionize health care.  And I am proud of our  aggressive
support for the Human Genome Project."

   "But it's also clear that it is wrong for insurance companies to use
genetic information to deny coverage.  It's happened before.  It  happened
in the 1970s with some African Americans who carried sickle  cell anemia.
And it can happen in many other ways.  An enormous number  -- percentage of
American woman get breast cancer at some time during  their lives.  An
enormous percentage of American men get prostate  cancer at some time during
their lives.  There are other kinds of  medical problems that occur with
increasing frequency and that we'll  see more and more as we grow older as a
   And now, we see the consequences already of this kind of  discrimination.
 It's wrong when someone avoids taking a test that  could save a life just
because they're so afraid that the genetic  information will be used against
them.  And too many women today fear  that that will happen when they decide
to test or to not be tested to  see if they carry the gene for breast
   Now, this kind of discrimination is -- really it's more than wrong,  it's
a life-threatening abuse of a potentially life-saving discovery.  And I
can't help commenting that in the United States it is a direct  consequence
of the fact that we are the only advanced country in the  world that has
chosen to finance the health care of our citizens  through a private
insurance system that is completely optional and does  not cover every one.
   So that to be fair, the insurance companies themselves face some
dilemmas that can only be fixed by the law, by a restatement of the  public
interest, so that none are treated differently from others if  they make the
decision to do what is morally right.  And I think that's  important to
point out.  I tried to fix it once and took a lot of  criticism, but I'm not
-- (laughter) -- I'm not ashamed that I did.  If  I could fix it tomorrow, I
would fix it tomorrow, because this is not  right.  (Applause.)
   But we have done what we could to try to, step by step, change this
structure.  A year ago, we took the first step when Congress passed and  I
signed the Kennedy-Kassebaum bill, which prohibits group health plans  from
using genetic information to deny coverage, and today my  administration is
sending legislation to Congress that will ban all  health plans, group and
individual, from denying coverage or from  raising premiums on the basis of
genetic tests.  It will prohibit all  health plans from disclosing genetic
information that could be misused  by other insurers.  But it will protect
researchers' ability to make  the best use of this vitally important tool."


    "But what we're here today to say is something very simple and
yet profound.  We cannot afford to let our progress either in science or in
extending health care to the American people to be undermined by the  misuse
of what is a miracle of genetic testing.  Americans should never  have to
choose between saving their health insurance and taking tests  that could
save their lives.  With these efforts, we will ensure at  least that no
American ever has to make that choice again.
   Thank you very much."


Sender: Bob Resta <bresta@swedish.org>

Recently, a team of scientists reported
the results of mitochondrial DNA
analysis of the original Neanderthal
specimens. The Neanderthal DNA was
compared to mitochondrial DNA from
modern humans from 5 continents. The
Neanderthal DNA sequence was
significantly different from modern
human mitochondrial. Based on this DNA
difference, the researchers concluded
that Neanderthals branched off from the
hominid line about 550,000-700,00 years
ago, before modern humans branched off.

While I recognize the value and
strength of modern biology's genetic
definition of species, isn't this the
quintessential example of humanity
being defined by DNA? The
paleoarcheological evidence suggests
that Neanderthals buried their dead
with elaborate ceremony and a concept
of the afterlife, that Neanderthals
produced sophisticated art, complex
tools, had an intricate social order
and in all other aspects acted
indistinguishably from humans. How do
we judge people - by their DNA or their

Robert Resta
Center For Perinatal Studies
Swedish Medical Center
Seattle, WA  USA

The opinions expressed here are not
necessarily the opinions of Swedish
Medical Center or the Center for
Perinatal Studies.

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