DNA databases

June 12, 2013

For many years, the UK has utilised a National DNA database. This is a powerful tool in crime-fighting but is ethically controversial. The recent US Supreme Court decision (Maryland v King) rehearses some of these issues in an American context (see various posts on the Stanford Law and Biosciences blog for further reflection on the ramifications of the Supreme Court case).

The following video, which included an interview with DNA fingerprinting pioneer Sir Alec Jeffreys, was produced by second year students at the University of Leicester.

Users of Bioethicsbytes interested in teaching about the ethics of DNA databases might also be interested the following posts:


Ethics in the biosciences (Resource)

September 8, 2011
cover of briefing document

The Briefing contains recommendations about useful resources for teaching about various aspects of bioethics

Anyone involved in teaching ethics to bioscience students should get hold of a copy of Ethics in the biosciences: Resources, references and tools for ethics teaching in the biosciences. This is the second Briefing document produced by the UK Centre for Bioscience (the first was on Assessment).

The new booklet includes coverage of the following topics:

    • Teaching ethics
    • Assessing ethics
    • Ethical theory: How are ethical decisions made?
    • The ethics of being a scientist
    • Environmental ethics
    • Issues at the beginning of life
    • Issues at the end of life
    • Genetics and genomes
    • Animal experimentation
    • Transhumanism
    • Ethics and Risk

Each chapter includes a short introduction written by an expert on the topic and then a recommendations of other resources (websites, books, articles, slides, videos, etc) which have proven to be useful in teaching on the subject.

In addition to the online version of the booklet, a number of hard copies have been produced – if you would like one please contact the UK Centre for Bioscience before December 2011 when, unfortunately, their activities will be substantially scaled back.


Forensic use of bioinformation

January 7, 2011

Established in 1991, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics has earned a reputation for production of authoritative reports of ethical issues raised by a variety of current and emerging technologies in biomedicine and bioscience.

The quality and depth of analysis of the Nuffield reports means that they are rather too ‘chunky’ for most GCSE and A level students to negotiate. Over the last couple of years the Council’s Reaching Out to Young People committee (of which I am a member) has begun to produce educational resources to offer some of the key curriculum-relevant content of the larger reports in a more teenager-friendly format.

The forensic use of bioinformation resources are derived from the Council’s 2007 report of the same name. The resources include curriculum links, lesson plans, teaching notes, activity sheets, background information and quizzes. We hope you find them useful.


Forensic uses of DNA

December 10, 2010

For the past three years we have been asking second year students to produce a short film on a bioethical topic as an assessed activity. This task allows the students to demonstrate their knowledge in creative ways. I have finally got around to posting some of their films on our own YouTube channel. The first of these focusses on the use of DNA in forensics and as well as the students’ own CSI-style story it also features an interview with Alec Jeffreys. More videos will be posted shortly.


Darwin’s Dangerous Idea – Born Equal? (BBC2)

March 25, 2009
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This episode of Darwin's Dangerous Idea can be viewed online via the BBC iPlayer until April7 2009.

In the three-part series, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, broadcast on BBC2 to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, broadcaster Andrew Marr explores the impact of the theory of evolution by natural selection on science, politics and society.

While the first and third episodes, respectively entitled Body and Soul and Life and Death, explore the historical spread of Darwin’s theory and the way it can be employed within conservation and ecology, the second episode, Born Equal?, includes a short section (between 00:45:12 and 00:56:20) that could be used in bioethics teaching.

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DNA Database – Against Human Rights

December 4, 2008
European Court of Human Rights - Grand Chamber Judgement 4th December 2008 (Press release)

European Court of Human Rights - Grand Chamber Judgement 4th December 2008 (Press release)

On Thursday 4th December 2008 the ‘European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) delivered a Grand Chamber judgement in the case of S. and Marper vs. the United Kingdom. They found that when an individual is arrested and has their DNA sample taken but is not subsequently convicted of the crime or is tried and acquitted, the retention of the DNA sample and DNA profile is a violation of Article 8 (Right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Please see Bioethicsbytes ‘Give us your DNA’ – Panorama and the BioethicsBytes Extended Commentary ‘Give us your DNA’ – Panorama.

BioethicsBytes Extended Commentary - 'Give us your DNA' - Panorama

BioethicsBytes Extended Commentary - 'Give us your DNA' - Panorama

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‘An Adventure into Ourselves’ – DNA: The Human Race, Channel 4, 2003

June 17, 2008
 

Sequencing the Human Genome (DNA: The Human Race, Channel 4, 22nd March 2003)

In this, the third of four episodes in Channel 4’s award winning DNA series (first broadcast in 2003), narrator Bernard Hill explores the origins and eventual completion of the Human Genome Project (HGP). Described as the attempt to “catalogue all the genes that carry the instructions to make a human being” (00:00:08), the programme features the majority of the key actors in this scientific and political drama including James Watson, Sir John Sulston, Fred Sanger, Craig Venter, and former US President Bill Clinton. Insofar as the series successfully integrates discussion of the scale and scope of the project in scientific, political and financial terms, it forms an excellent basis for teaching both the science and bioethics of the HGP and large scale sociotechnical projects.

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