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April 1, 1992

Examining Life's (Genomic) Code Means Reexamining Society's Long-Held Codes

JAMA. 1992;267(13):1715-1716. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03480130021002

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MUCH of the scientific community views the Human Genome Project as a path of tremendous promise. But ethicists and lawyers are warning that this gene map may lead down pothole-filled roads.

This mapping and sequencing of the genome is unique among scientific projects in its recognition of the need to consider ethical, legal, and social issues and in providing funds to do so. At $5 million, the project has "the largest biomedical ethics program in this country and probably in the world," according to Nancy Wexler, PhD, the chair of the National Center for Human Genome Research's Committee on Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues. She is also president of the Hereditary Disease Foundation and associate professor of clinical and neuropsychiatry at Columbia University, New York, NY.

Insight From Campuses  In 1991, the ethics program sponsored 19 programs across the country. Participants at two of these, at the University of Michigan,