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Input sought from Detroit minorities on genetic technology

ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan School of Public Health is seeking African Americans and other minorities in the Detroit area to share their opinions in a forum on genetic technology, reproductive choices, personal values and public policy. The group's objective is to help develop a government and health care policy with regard to the appropriate uses of genetics technology.

The weekly forums will be held every Thursday, 7-9 p.m., Jan. 23-Feb. 27 at the Ward Conference Center, University of Detroit-Mercy, 8200 W. Outer Drive. People who are interested in joining the forum are urged to call Project Administrator Nancy Anderson at (313) 936-1226.

"Ready or not, genetic technology is about to revolutionize medical care in the United States. Before a child is born or even conceived, parents will have the option of determining its sex or deciding whether to conceive or give birth to a child who might develop Huntington's disease or sickle cell anemia," said Toby Citrin, director of the project and of the School's Office of Community-Based Public Health.

"The policy implications are enormous and society must plan ahead. Legislators need grassroots input now from a wide range of communities and from minority communities in particular," he said.

Typical scenarios for discussion might include:

--A mother on welfare decides to have a baby she knows will have a genetic disease. Should the government continue welfare payments? Should private insurers be allow to eliminate coverage?

--Genetic testing shows that you carry a gene for a fatal or debilitating disease. Should your spouse have automatic access to the test results? Your insurance company? Your employer?

--While testing for a disease, a doctor can also test for a tendency to be fat, extremely short or gay. Should such testing be done?

Detroit is one of seven cities in the project. The others are Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti, Grand Rapids, Holland, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Saginaw/Bay City.

Phone: (734) 764-7260

Ward Conference Center