POV 2008 Preview: ‘In the Family’

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On October 7, 2008, POV will air Joanna Rudnick‘s In the Family. When Joanna tested positive for the “breast cancer gene” at age 27, she knew the information could save her life. She also knew that she would have to make heart-wrenching decisions about whether or not to remove her breasts and ovaries, or risk developing cancer. In the Family is a moving document of one young woman’s struggles, and her efforts to reach out to other women while facing her deepest fears.

On May 1st, Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) bill. On this momentous occasion, Joanna writes in to talk about why the GINA bill is so important, and to introduce us to In the Familiy.

In 2001, at the age of 27, I decided to take a genetic test to find out my odds of getting breast and ovarian cancer. As I pondered what a positive test result would mean to my future, one of my main concerns was the potential for losing my health insurance because of a pre-existing condition.

Even though a positive test result is only a predictor of risk and not a diagnosis of disease, I wasn’t confident that the insurance companies would see it the same way. So I tested anonymously, paying out of pocket for the blood
test.

It came back “positive for a deleterious mutation,” and I worked hard to keep the information out of my medical records, often leading to confused and uninformed conversations with doctors about my future care. I began to think that maybe, just maybe, I shouldn’t be living in fear solely because I inherited some bad DNA.

During the process of making In the Family, I hooked up with an incredible group called The Coalition for Genetic Fairness that was working tirelessly to try and pass legislation to protect individuals from genetic discrimination by insurers and employers. This legislation, The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), would offer more than just legal protections; it would conquer the culture of fear that had grown around genetic testing.
After a nearly 13-year battle to pass GINA in some form of another, the bill passed both houses of Congress a few weeks ago and President Bush has promised to sign it into law.

I cried as I watched two hours of the Senate hearings on C-SPAN, during which Senator Ted Kennedy referred to the bill as the most important civil rights legislation passed in the new century. I could see the hundreds of faces of all the women and their families I encountered on the road the last few years and know that they no longer had to live in fear that their genetic information would be used against them.

Instead, we can now focus our energies on early detection and prevention, and living full lives despite our predispositions.

In the Family airs on POV on Wednesday, October 1. You can sign up to be reminded of the film’s broadcast on its preview page.

POV Guest Blogger
POV Guest Blogger
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 300 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.
  • T. Sartech

    I can’t wait to see the this show.  Recently I installed all dark sky lighting for outdoor needs to keep the sky dark.I do not “burn” outdoor light just for effect. Now I see that San Francisco is going to install 60 foot high flood lights on several acres of  sports fields that have no lighting now and is next to the beach / coast (Beach Chalet area);  and in Golden Gate Park no less.  So why did I spent more for lighting that keeps the sky dark? Mayor Lee, can the lights and can the sports complex. SF is lite enough as it is. 

  • TJ

    Too bad those who are collecting the bird carcass of all the thousands of bird that die by crashing into our lighted buildings haven’t figured out that THEY are contributing to the electric power usage, and creating additional buildings to house this ridiculous collection of dead birds. Take a picture and document them, but to store the bodies ? Get real……….