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Posts Tagged ‘Morgan Centre’

The Genetic Family in Question: Part II

In 2012, Genetics on June 18, 2012 at 8:17 am

This is the promised follow up to an earlier post  on the fascinating Interdisciplinary Dialogue event on ‘The genetic family in question’, held last month at the Morgan Centre, Manchester Uni. The morning session was devoted to two papers on ‘Being related: Blood, genes and gendered relationalities’; with Dr Janet Fink (Open University) speaking on ‘“Her husband will not come home until the little one is adopted”: marriage, adultery and the unsettling presence of the illegitimate child in post-war family lives’, and Dr Gill Haddow (University of Edinburgh) with ‘”We only did it because he asked us”: Gendered accounts of family participation in a population genetic data collection‘.

Janet’s talk was a fascinating foray into (now historical) practices around adoption following adulterous unions &  post-war family life, drawing on rich data from relevant charity archives (eg Moral Welfare Association, Salvation Army, Jewish Board of Guardians) as to the working policies in place at that time as to who ought to be helped (ie whose children could be placed for adoption) and who should not be assisted (depending on marital status, whether or not this was the first baby put up for adoption etc).

Gill’s talk provided some fascinating insights into her qualitative study with some of the participants of Generation Scotland – examining the recruitment strategies re encouraging familial participation in the study (in contrast with, eg UK Biobank, Generation Scotland recruits families for testing in order to explore inherited factors passed on within families). Gill explored gender differences in the reported accounts of the family members responsible for recruiting others (eg trends in who they tended to recruit), strategies of recruitment and reasons for participation (eg reciprocity, a means of a family member having a health ‘mini-MOT’ without realising); and also reflected on the limitations re recruitment in light of the realities of family life ~ eg lack of close kinship ties, falling out ~ which clearly impacts on which family members are asked, and which will participate.

Their abstracts and slides, together with those in the session on mtDNA, are now available here.

mtDNA in Manchester: Exploring mitochondrial donation

In 2012, Genetics, Reproduction on May 16, 2012 at 8:23 am

Last week I participated in a fascinating Interdisciplinary Dialogue event around ‘The genetic family in question’ at the Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life at Manchester University, organised by Dr Petra Nordqvist. This was linked to her project with Prof. Carol Smart on ‘Relative Strangers’ (the subject of last week’s blog post).

Coincidentally, both Dr Rebecca Dimond (Cardiff) and I offered papers on mitochondrial donation, so we were fortunate to have an entire afternoon session dedicated to considering the policy, law, social and other potential implications raised by these developing techniques – these are currently lawful for research purposes only (ie not lawful for use in the treatment of patients), following a licensing decision by the HFEA in 2005. Rebecca talked us through some insightful aspects of her interviews with family members with mitochondrial conditions, whereas my focus lay with the law and policy issues that may arise if Regulations are introduced to make lawful the use of these techniques in treatment. This area is, of course, subject to considerable attention in 2012 with the Nuffield Council on Bioethics due to publish its Report soon, and the HFEA in conjunction with Sciencewise-ERC due to undertake public dialogue later this year.

Our abstracts are below … a further post will follow on the morning’s session soon.

Relatively (im)material? mtDNA and genetic relatedness in legal discourse – Dr Caroline Jones

Mitochondrial donation poses the latest regulatory challenge for policy-makers in the context of assisted conception. In 2012 the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority are consulting on ethical issues raised by this technique; including the potential relationships created by the use of three parties’ genetic material and the associated ramifications (eg whether or not there is a need to establish records of such donations and, if so, to whom should information be provided?) Hence, this technique poses both novel and familiar questions about ‘the genetic family’. This paper will explore the construction of the relative (in)significance of mitochondrial DNA in recent parliamentary debates, and current policy and consultation documents, in order to reflect on the ways in which the role of genetic connections – or lack thereof – are mediated in legal discourse and policy formation.

Who is the ‘third parent’? Mitochondria donation and implications for identity and kinship – Dr Rebecca Dimond

What is the link between mitochondrial DNA and a person’s identity?  What relationship does a woman have to a child conceived using her donated mitochondria?  These are key questions that the Nuffield Council on Bioethics have asked in exploring the ethical issues surrounding emerging techniques to prevent inherited mitochondrial disorders. There is currently no cure for mitochondrial disease but experimental reproductive technologies have now been developed which can allow women with mitochondrial disease to have children free from the disease. The technique involves replacing faulty mitochondria during an IVF cycle with healthy mitochondria from a donated egg. As the donated mitochondria (which contain a small number of genes) would be inherited by future generations, this technique requires a change in the law in order for it to be offered to patients and this has prompted calls for evidence by the Nuffield Council and HFEA. By drawing on interviews with patients with mitochondrial disease and media representations of the ‘three parent embryo’, in this presentation I consider how these techniques raise fundamental questions of identity and kinship.