What would you do?

April 09, 1991|By Gerri Kobren

In a world where medical miracles have become almost commonplace, decisions are harder to make: Benefits have to be balanced against risks, choices can create problems that call for further choices, and whatever you do will have medical, ethical, economic and legal ramifications.

That's the theme of "Designer Genes: Sizing Up Bioethics," the current exhibit at the Maryland Science Center. Visitors to the show can look, touch, listen and, then, with the push of a button, make the yes or no decisions they may someday have to make in a life-or-death situation.

Arranged in modules, the exhibit features a basketball hoop that can be raised or lowered to illustrate the advantages of height -- and a question about the use of growth hormone, which has risks as well as benefits. There's also a pair of plastic torsos with removable body parts, and some questions about costs and sources of transplantable organs. A mock-up of a hospital room presents the pros and cons of life-support for a man who will never regain consciousness, and the reasons for treating, or not treating, an illness in an infant who will soon die anyway.

In the genetics booth, you imagine a time when scientists can eliminate hemophilia by replacing the defective gene that produces babies whose blood will not clot. You're left to decide whether human beings should meddle with Mother Nature's most basic, life-giving unit.

Developed by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the exhibit is sponsored by the Kaiser Permanente Health Care Program. It'll be at the Science Center until April 28. Admission is $7.50 for adults; $5.50 for children, senior citizens and military personnel.

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