Monday, January 30, 2023 Jan 30, 2023
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GENE DREAMS

By Lucie Nelka |

ETHICS This past spring and summer, an unusual exhibit at the Science Place asked visitors some probing bioethical questions. For instance: imagine you have terminal brain cancer. A lifesaving transplant is available, but the operation will rob you of your personality and memory. Will you accept the transplant?

If you answered “yes,” you might consider heading west to La-La Land. When “Designer Genes: Sizing Up Bioethics” visited Los Angeles, almost half of the visitors said they’d take the transplant. Not so in Dallas, where nearly 60 percent of the 20,000-plus visitors said they’d rather die than pass on personality.

The you-make-the-call show gave people a chance tc ponder ethical decisions about organ transplants, cloning, genetic engineering, and euthanasia. Dallas, the fourth stop on the exhibit’s 11-city tour, so far has voted most like Portland. Neither city, for example, thought that family members should have the right to overrule a dying person’s wish to be cremated or to donate his body to science, and both were equally opposed to the idea of cloning people as “farms” for spare body parts.

But when it came to pulling the plug, we left our Portland pals behind. Sixty percent of us were ready to remove the life-support systems keeping a comatose, brain-damaged patient alive, as compared to Portland’s more hopeful 45 percent.

Bioethically, our biggest quarrel was with Berkeley, California. Almost a third of Dallas visitors answered no when asked whether a previous kidney donor who was now in need of a kidney herself should take priority over other applicants. Berkeley was much more generous, with 83 percent ready to move her name to the top of the list.

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