Defining the Boundaries of Genetic Research
Revolutionary discoveries in genetics and biotechnology, such as genetically modified food and animal cloning, present significant challenges for the world's governments. Each new discovery gives rise to public concern related to ethical, legal and social issues. Despite years of careful public and academic consideration of these issues, governments at all levels continue to struggle with how to address them.
To date, few meaningful regulatory responses have emerged - largely due to such challenges as rapid technological development, changing social values, and a lack of consensus regarding the nature and severity of public concern. But as growth in genetics and biotechnology expands, so too, does interest in health law; governments need reliable, informative data that will facilitate the development of sound policies and regulations.
No one understands this more than University of Alberta professor Timothy A. Caulfield. As Chair in Health Law and Policy, Professor Caulfield is undertaking a number of large research projects to explore the on-going legal and ethical issues associated with genetics and biotechnology. The projects will address both general issues and issues related to specific areas, such as stem cells research. And since many are interdisciplinary in nature, Professor Caulfield plans to collaborate with experts in diverse fields, such as economics, philosophy, sociology, and anthropology.
Although the goals of each initiative may differ, there are common themes. These include: identifying and clarifying the legal and ethical concerns associated with genomic technologies; exploring how these concerns affect the perceptions and values of citizens, consumers, policy makers, researchers, and industry; critiquing existing relevant regulatory and policy making frameworks; and making recommendations for future regulatory policy.
In addition to publication in leading legal, medical and scientific journals, Professor Caulfield's work should further discussion among the world's decision makers with regard to the legal, ethical and social dimensions of the "genetic revolution." In turn, this will aid development of more appropriate biotechnology and genetic legislation.