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BLOODLINES: Technology Hits Home, produced, directed and written by Noel Schwerin, is a production of Backbone Media and is presented to PBS by Oregon Public Broadcasting. Edited by Josh Peterson. Narrated by Andre Braugher with original music by Todd Boekelheide.

Backbone Media is a nonprofit independent production company founded by Schwerin in 1998. Specializing in documentaries about how people make sense of science, history, technology and law, Backbone Media is committed to educating the public about these subjects in new and thought-provoking ways. A veteran of NOVA, Schwerin has written, produced and directed numerous award-winning films, including the two-hour prime-time PBS special "A Question of Genes," which received the first-prize CLARION Award from the Association of Women in Communications and the first-prize CINE Golden Eagle.

Major funding for BLOODLINES: Technology Hits Home has been provided by the Human Genome Project at the United States Department of Energy. Additional funding was provided by The Estate of Richard Simches and the Pettus-Crowe Foundation.


Producer Contact:
Noel Schwerin
Backbone Media

Press Contact:
Noel Schwerin
Backbone Media

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.


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?


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?


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.


Interviews can be arranged with Lori Andrews, author of "The Clone Age," "Body Bazaar" and "Future Perfect"; Noel Schwerin, Producer of BLOODLINES; and all characters in the documentary, including Susan Ring, surrogate, Janice and Gary Avary, whistleblowers on a secret genetic testing program, Stuart Newman, applicant for a patent on part-human, part-chimpanzee creature, Jim Finn, recipient of a fetal pig cell transplant and Leslee Subak and Linda McAllister, lesbian mothers.

Please contact Noel Schwerin at Backbone Media, 415.282.5620.


Call: 800.343.5540 or 415.282.5620
Write: Backbone Media
330 Duncan Street
San Francisco, CA 94131


To find out about BLOODLINES’ extensive educational and outreach
resources, or to partner in outreach opportunities, please email Backbone
Media at



"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
the new molecular genetics will someday affect out lives. In refreshing contrast, BLOODLINES brings to life and deftly explores a series of issues currently at the vanguard of these technologies. In sensitive, reflective, and sophisticated ways, the film reveals just how much the "future" conundrums of genetics, law, responsibility, and human dignity are already with us."

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
activities and amid the revolution we are undergoing in biotechnology, it
has become anything but. This is a realm of artificial insemination,
in vitro fertilization, egg and sperm donors, pregnancy surrogates,
prenatal screening for genetic traits. In some realms, this saves
individuals from the heartbreak of childlessness. In others, it poses
some of the toughest ethical questions in medicine. Bloodlines tackles
this all—an immensely provocative and well-done film."

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.