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05/16/2014

Artistic Inquiry: Informed Consent on Stage

Deborah Zoe Laufer’s new play, Informed Consent, takes its inspiration from a real-life situation. Drawing on details from a legal dispute in the 1990s between a Native American tribe and Arizona State University, this thought-provoking and surprisingly humorous play tells the story of a genetic anthropologist whose tests on a Native population exceed those for which she has gotten consent. Informed Consent raises questions about what we — as individuals and as communities of different peoples — want to know about being human, and who gets to decide what knowledge is sought.
Issues of identity and community, of science and society, are at the heart of this 90 minute play. These issues also animate the pre-show audience discussions that are free for ticket holders. The group conversations start 45 minutes before each performance and run for 25 minutes.
Informed Consent is on stage now through May 18th at the Cleveland Playhouse in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Before you go to a performance — or in case you cannot make it to Cleveland this week — you may wish to look at the Insider’s Guide.
The issues explored in this play are timely; the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues recently released educational modules on Informed Consent in Privacy and Progress in Whole Genome Sequencing   and Informed Consent in general. While Laufer’s play was not designed as a formal educational piece, how might it and other artful works be used to improve understanding of the complexities surrounding the topic of informed consent?

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