BLOODLINES: Technology Hits Home
Offering hope to infertile couples. Curing disease by mixing human and animal cells. Assessing risk with genetic testing. Over the past few decades, the public has become increasingly comfortable with a growing menu of medical procedures, as interventions that were once science fiction become commonplace. But as reproductive and genetic technologies move out of the laboratory and into medical practice, as they are combined into complex applications and applied in unforeseen ways, they are forcing us to ask the question: are we creating a world that we won’t want to inhabit?
A baby with five "parents" and none of them recognized by law. A patent application for a creature that would be genetically part human and part chimpanzee. A corporation secretly doing genetic tests on its workers. These scenarios are not only real, they are challenging our most fundamental beliefs and establishing legal precedents that govern our future. BLOODLINES: Technology Hits Home, a one-hour documentary that premiered on PBS, Tuesday, June 10th, 2003, reveals how new life technologies are raising ethical, legal and social dilemmas as cutting-edge science intersects with the law.
Written, produced and directed by Noel Schwerin and narrated by Andre Braugher, BLOODLINES explores these dilemmas firsthand.
A BABY WITH FIVE PARENTS
John and Luanne Buzzanca just wanted a baby. After countless attempts at artificial insemination, six in vitro fertilizations, six surrogates and two-hundred thousand dollars, they finally conceive a child with a surrogate and donated sperm and egg. But what happens when, a month before the baby is due, John files for divorce and claims there are no children of the marriage? "This baby has no legal parents," rules the trial judge. Who, then, of the five parties involved, is responsible for the child?
A HALF-HUMAN CHIMP
Humans can now be crossed with other primates. A developmental biologist applies for a patent on a (technologically possible) half-human, half-chimpanzee embryo. To what end? How would we relate to such part-human creatures and what place would they have in human society? Would they, for instance, have the right to vote?
SECRET GENETIC TESTING
A railroad requires its employees to submit to a medical exam, then secretly tests them for a genetic predisposition to disease. Some workers realize the company may be seeking a medical excuse to discriminate against them. They go to court, conscious that their careers are on the line either way. What is privacy, and what are our rights when such intimate—and potentially stigmatizing—information can be revealed so readily?
BLOODLINES: Technology Hits Home also has an exciting, interactive companion web site. Designed for the general public as well as educators and professionals, it provides history, context and commentary on the practical as well as the ethical, legal and social implications of new biotechnologies.
Please contact Noel Schwerin at Backbone Media, 415.282.5620.
BLOODLINES ON TAPE
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR BLOODLINES
"Noel has given us a moving and often disturbing glimpse into the new social possibilities that can arise from genetic and reproductive technologies. A fascinating and important work."
Donald Kennedy, Ph.D., Editor in Chief, Science, Professor and President emeritus Stanford University, Former Commissioner, FDA; author, Academic Duty.
"Our society is sadly lacking in broad-based discourse on the ethical implications of technological innovation. BLOODLINES should serve as a model of the way the electronic media can contribute to expanding public discussion of key moral questions. It dramatically highlights some of the crucial dilemmas created by rapidly advancing biomedical science. I wish it could be seen by everyone."
Paul Ehrlich, Ph.D., Professor of Population Studies and Biological Sciences at Stanford University; author, The Population Bomb.
"We have been bombarded with hype about the
ways in which
Troy Duster, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, New York University, Chancellor's Professor, University of California, Berkeley, and author, "The Legislation of Morality" and "Backdoor to Eugenics."
"Reproduction was once one of the most private
and personal of human
Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D., Professor of Biology, Stanford University, and prize-winning author of "The Trouble with Testosterone," "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers" and "A Primate's Memoir."
"This excellent video explores entirely new territory at the intersection of law, technology, and society with clarity and respect. The wonderful photography, the real people, and the bleak midwestern landscapes set the stage for a wide-ranging discussion of these important issues."
Sally Tobin, Ph.D., M.S.W., Senior Research Scholar, Center for Biomedical Ethics, Stanford University
"For those who like to consider the complex philosophical and ethical issues that could arise with third-party reproduction, BLOODLINES is compelling and very well told. Through individual stories, it brings to life such challenging questions as whether biology or intention holds the greater claim to parenthood…It is a riveting piece that should cause all of us to look at our state’s laws and case law about third-party reproduction to see if they would lead to the largely fair outcomes we see in BLOODLINES."
RESOLVE, the largest national association providing information, advocacy and support to men and women facing infertility.
Credit for the top image: Photo by Steve Burns. Design by NOON.
© 2003 Backbone Media. All rights reserved.