Sophomore Seminars

Law and the Biosciences

Completion of PWR 1 or other WR 1 course.

Should parents be allowed to choose the genetic traits of their children? How should courts use neuroimaging to read the minds of witnesses? How will cheap and common whole genome sequencing change medicine and society? What will happen if we can make eggs and sperm from skin cells, using induced pluripotent stem cell technology? This seminar will examine legal, social, and ethical issues arising from advances in the biosciences. Much of the course will focus on human genetics, but we will also look at advances in assisted reproduction and in neuroscience. Specific topics may (or may not) include forensic use of DNA, genetic testing, genetic discrimination, eugenics, cloning, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, neuroscientific methods of lie detection and genetic or neuroscience enhancement, and other issues that seem interesting by next spring. Students will be required to make two short oral presentations, write a research paper, and deliver an oral presentation of their paper's conclusions.

This course fulfills the second-level Writing and Rhetoric Requirement (WRITE 2) and emphasizes oral and multimedia presentation. 

Meet the Instructor(s)

Henry T. (Hank) Greely

Henry Greely, professor of law and, by courtesy, of genetics, specializes in legal and social implications of advances in the biosciences. He has written on genetics, human cloning, stem cell research, and neuroscience, as well as more general issues of the ethics of human subjects research and of human biological enhancement. He directs the Stanford Center for Law and the Biosciences and chairs the steering committee of Stanford's Center for Biomedical Ethics. He received his B.A. in political science at Stanford and his J.D. at Yale. He served as a law clerk for Judge John Minor Wisdom on the United States Court of Appeals and for Justice Potter Stewart of the United States Supreme Court. After working during the Carter administration in the Defense and Energy Departments, he entered private practice as a litigator. He joined the Law School faculty in 1985.