PUBLISHED:February 05, 2008

Exposed today, grandchildren pay

Professor Mark A. Rothstein of the University of Louisville will address the legal and ethical implications of trangenerational environmental epigenetics when he delivers the seventh annual Rabbi Seymour Siegel Memorial Lecture in Ethics on Feb. 26. His talk, titled “Exposed Today, Grandchildren Pay,” will begin at 12:15 p.m. in room 3041 of Duke Law School. Response to Rothstein’s remarks will be offered by Duke University experts from the fields of science, ethics, and law.

Epigenetics involves the study of heritable changes in gene expression that are unrelated to DNA sequence variation. Recent research has demonstrated a variety of epigenetic alterations in laboratory animals and humans caused by exposure to environmental agents such as toxic chemicals, radiation, cigarette smoke, and diet, including some that have multigenerational effects. Exposure to environmental contaminants may lead to increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other diseases, and these epigenetic effects may persist in future generations.

Rothstein, the Herbert F. Boehl Chair of Law and Medicine and director of the Institute for Bioethics, Health Policy and Law at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, will discuss the legal and ethical issues raised by epigenetics, including regulatory and liability effects, intergenerational equity, eugenics, environmental justice, privacy and confidentiality, and equitable access to health care.

Response to Professor Rothstein’s remarks from scientific, ethical, and legal perspectives will be offered by a panel of Duke University scholars. Randy Jirtle is director of the Division of Radiation and Molecular Oncology Research at the Duke Medical Center and a world-renowned expert in the science of epigenetics; Robert Cook-Deegan, directs Duke’s Center for Genome Ethics, Law & Policy (GELP); and Lauren Dame, associate director of GELP and an associate of the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine, teaches bioethics and the law at Duke Law School.

The annual Siegel Lecture is sponsored by labor lawyer Allen Siegel ’60 in memory of his brother, Rabbi Seymour Siegel, a noted scholar of ethics and theology.

The Siegel lecture will be webcast live beginning at 12:10.

For more information contact Frances Presma at (919) 613-7248.