INTERVIEW WITH LORI
Yale Law Report, Winter 2008
On the Frontier of Law and Science
What are the legal rights of a severed head if—some day—it can be reattached to a healthy, living body?
Is it considered incest if a woman acts as a surrogate for an embryo her brother and his infertile wife have created?
What are the ethics of patenting a patient's genes?
When doctors, governments, and research institutions across the globe are faced with questions concerning the legal and ethical concerns around issues such as human cloning, stem cell research, gene patenting, and the trade in human tissue, Lori Andrews '78 tends to get a phone call. "I'm the person who gets called when there's no law yet," she says.
Many of the questions come In as she dashes between her responsibilities as a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, the director of Illinois Institute of Technology's Institute for Science, Law and Technology, and as a new novelist whose two latest books blend forensic science with fast-paced mystery.
An internationally recognized expert on biotechnology, Andrews was named one of the "100 Most Influential Lawyers in America" by the National Law Journal.
Though questions of genetic privacy and cloning still seemed like subjects strictly for science fiction at the time Andrews was in law school, she dove into the work. Her undergraduate work studying the psychological impact of hospital stays, combined with a law school course on the legalities of emerging biotechnologles, led to an interest in the overlap between medicine and law and, eventually, to the field of biotechnology.
It turned out that it was liberating for Andrews to be in a field so wide open.
"Older male lawyers called me a 'lawyerette,' but they still came tome with their legal questions," she recalls. "If I had gone Into a field like probate law it would have been more of a problem that I was a woman."
Today Andrews has served as an adviser on genetic and reproductive technology to Congress, the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the Federal Department of Health and Human Services, the Institutes of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and several foreign nations including the emirate of Dubai and the French National Assembly.
In the last couple of years, Andrews has added two novels to her already impressive list of more than a dozen published books. Among her nonfiction work are titles on reproductive technologies (The Clone Age), genetic discrimination (Future Perfect), and the marketing of human tissue (Baby Bazaar). In the mid 1990s Andrews chaired the federal ethics committee advising the Human Genome Project. Through that work she gained inspiration for her first novel, Sequence. A trip to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and a look at the Vietnamese Trophy Skulls housed there gave the idea for her second novel, The Silent Assassin. Both novels take a fast-action, dramatic look at some of the same issues her nonfiction books tackle.
The area of biotechnology is far more advanced, Andrews says, than most lawyers realize. And the field keeps evolving, changing daily. "Science looks forward. The law tends to look back," she says. "There is a vacuum there and we have to rely upon other disciplines—epidemiology, psychology, sociology—to answer some of these questions. But that evolution is what keeps it interesting."
All content © 2006-08 by Lori Andrews.