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On the Brain
May 3, 2021

A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of General Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 2Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
JAMA Neurol. 2021;78(6):648-649. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2021.0980

I first saw the movie Gattaca sometime in 2008, during a high school class. Set in a near-distant future where eugenics are commonplace, it tells the story of a man born without the aid of genetic engineering attempting to pass himself off as genetically perfect in order to become an astronaut. It was the sort of film that checked all the boxes for my teacher—old enough that the school could reliably afford to replace the DVD when it wore out and, most importantly, rated only PG-13. We were given a series of probing questions: “Is genetic engineering ethical? 100 words.” “Do individuals have a right to keep their genetic information private? 100 words.” “Would you choose to have your genotype profiled? 150 words.” My memories of my answers are about as strong as the insights I am sure they contained.

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