The Secretary's Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health and Society, an advisory panel set up by the Bush administration last year, held its inaugural meeting last week. The new panel was established to provide policy advice to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the 'broad array of complex medical, ethical, legal, and social issues raised by the development and use of genetic technologies'.
The committee's task is to assess how genetic technologies are being integrated into healthcare and public health in the US. It will also study clinical, ethical, legal and societal implications of new medical applications and attempt to identify opportunities and gaps in genetic research and data collection efforts, explore the use of genetics in bioterrorism and examine current patent policy and licensing practices for their impact on access to genetic technologies. Additionally, it will analyse the use of genetic information in education, employment and insurance.
The formation of the committee is part of a wider reorganisation of the president's scientific advisory system that has been criticised as becoming 'a showcase of conservative causes in which science takes a back seat to religious ideology', reports The Scientist.