A recent Phoenix conference examined difficult questions about concussions and what should be done about them.

A recent Phoenix conference examined difficult questions about concussions and what should be done about them.

What are the legal and ethical implications that face society as we learn more about the brain and the corrosive effects of concussions?

On Friday, I had the good fortune to catch the final hour of an all-day conference committed to that and other important questions. That hour was the conference’s capstone and featured a panel Q&A moderated by legal star Arthur R. Miller, a law professor at NYU. I may write about that panel in an upcoming Arizona Attorney Magazine.

safeguarding brains ASU conference 11-13-15

In the meantime, I share an editorial that ran in Friday’s Arizona Republic. In “Ending the Concussion Epidemic,” conference organizers Betsy Grey and Gary Marchant, both professors with the Center for Law, Science & Innovation at ASU Law, offer valuable insight. Let’s hope conferences and articles like this help legal and government leaders make good choices.

(And it’s worth noting that Gary Marchant wrote for us before, on personalized medicine and the law.)

Gary Marchant

Last week, the law school at Arizona State University announced the news that it had been awarded a substantial grant aimed at research into personalized medicine—specifically, the liability issues that flow from it.

The almost-$900,000, three-year grant goes to a team led by Gary Marchant, a professor at the school. The grant was made by the National Institutes of Health’s National Human Genome Research Institute. His project’s title is “Liability in the Delivery of Personalized Medicine: Driver, Impediment, or Both?”

In the school’s press release, Professor Marchant is quoted:

“Liability is likely to be an increasingly important driver of personalized medicine, but it can be a double-edged sword. Our goal in this project is to first understand the dynamics and likely trajectory of liability in the field of personalized medicine. We then will try to shape liability impacts to be a positive rather than detrimental influence on the deployment of personalized medicine technologies and knowledge.”

More from the announcement is here.

National Institutes of Health logoIf you read Arizona Attorney Magazine, you have read Gary’s work before. (Professor Gary Marchant is the ASU Lincoln Professor of Emerging Technologies, Law and Ethics at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, and Faculty Director of the College of Law’s Center for Law, Science & Innovation.)

Gary’s collaboration with us at Arizona Attorney came in 2007, after he and I “met” on a national telephone conference on the topic of personalized medicine. Pleased to hear another Arizona voice on the conference call, I sent him an email while we all chatted. He followed up by graciously agreeing to write something on the topic for us.

The result was an October 2007 cover story on personalized medicine. In that article, he included a substantial portion on liability issues, so we may have gotten a preview of his study’s focus. Here is some of what he said then:

“One looming legal issue is the potential liability risks that PM may present for pharmaceutical manufacturers, genetic test providers and health care professionals. …

“All drug manufacturers now routinely collect genetic information of patients enrolled in pharmaceutical clinical studies. A manufacturer may face liability if these data show that certain genotypes are more susceptible to adverse side effects to a drug that is subsequently marketed without adequate genetic warnings. Drug manufacturers are legitimately concerned that genetic data of unknown or ambiguous significance at the time it is collected will be seen in hindsight by a jury in a product liability case many years later, relying on new evidence available at the time of trial, as evidence of a genetic susceptibility for which a warning should have been provided. Drug manufacturers are also concerned that pharmacogenomics will limit the sales of their new blockbuster drugs to specific genotypes within the population, and may be vulnerable to “failure to test” claims if they do not diligently investigate potential genetic susceptibilities to their drugs that may reduce their market by 50 percent or more. …

“Health care professionals are likely the most vulnerable to liability risks associated with PM. State-of-the-art diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disease will increasingly rely on genetic characterization of the patient and his or her disease. Yet many doctors lack any training in genetics. And even those who have understanding lack the infrastructure and guidance needed to effectively use the pharmacogenomic information that is increasingly appearing on drug labels. … As the nation’s leading medical institutions implement new PM tests and knowledge as they emerge, the standard of care will shift rapidly, leaving many physicians behind. These doctors may increasingly face the risk of lawsuits if they fail to consider genetics adequately when prescribing a drug with known severe side effects or recommend the wrong course of treatment for a tumor with a genetic profile suggesting a different approach.”

To read Gary’s complete insightful cover story, go here.

Congratulations to Gary, and to the law school. We look forward to the results of the study, which should yield insights for policymakers and lawyers alike.

This wonderful news story came our way this month from the Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

Congratulations to Professor Gary Marchant, who has been kind enough to write for Arizona Attorney Magazine in the past.

Citizen Marchant Takes Oath of Allegiance

By Janie Magruder

Professor Gary Marchant of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is sworn in as a naturalized citizen by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service branch chief Charles Harrell on Monday, Jan. 31. Photo by Tom Story, Arizona State University

Gary Marchant is an internationally renowned expert in biotechnology who has written hundreds of publications about the legal and ethical issues of emerging technologies. He’s a former partner at one of the most respected global law firms in Washington, D.C., and not only has a Ph.D. in genetics and a master’s degree in public policy, but also was first in his class at Harvard Law.

On Monday, Jan. 31, the 52-year-old professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University added another notch to his belt, that of American citizen. A 15-minute naturalization ceremony in an Armstrong Hall classroom, sandwiched between Marchant’s nanotechnology course and a constitutional law class, was attended by his wife Dawn, their children, Julie and Daniel, and about 75 law-school friends.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the U.S. political system, and the way that issues are heard and voted on here,” said Marchant, who grew up outside Vancouver, British Columbia. “As a teenager, the first time I had a job and got paid, I used the money to buy The New York Times, because I was so interested in how the government operates across the border. I wanted to come here and study, and I’m thrilled to become a United States citizen.”

While naturalization ceremonies are performed periodically for large groups of new citizens, such events for individuals are rare. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service approached Marchant late last year about delivering his oath at the law school. 

“The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service works to take our immigration activities out to the community and to those who wouldn’t normally see the immigration process firsthand,” said Marie Thérèse Sebrects of the USCIS. “The naturalization ceremony of Professor Marchant presented a perfect occasion to provide members of the ASU community, in general, and the law school, in particular, an opportunity to see this important final step to U.S. citizenship.”

Professor Gary Marchant wrote our cover story on personalized medicine in 2007

One of the earlier steps was a 10-question oral civics exam, which Marchant took in November. A passing grade is six out of 10 – Marchant missed just one question. (Asked to name a war that was fought in the 1900s, Marchant misinterpreted the question as 19th century and replied, “the Civil War.”)

At Monday’s ceremony, USCIS branch chief Charles Harrell administered the oath of office after affirming that the popular professor had “good moral character as required by law.” The room erupted in laughter and applause.

Said Harrell, “We liken it to a new birthday. Next year, you can ask for your birthday off. Whether they give it to you is not up to us.”

He encouraged Marchant to vote, become active in his community, even run for office. When Harrell emphasized that Marchant is not expected to leave behind his Canadian heritage or background, Marchant quipped, “So I can still watch hockey then?”

Amy Owen took her 11-year-old son, Duane Miller, out of school and brought him to the law school to witness the ceremony. “This is another way for my son to appreciate being a citizen of such a great country,” said Owen, a third-year law student. “This is not something we should take for granted. It’s definitely special.”

Duane, a fifth grader at Summit School of Ahwatukee, brought along a book in case things got long, but he didn’t have a chance to open it.

“I thought it was pretty cool,” said Duane, who watched President Obama, a graduate of Harvard Law in the class behind Marchant, deliver a videotaped message of congratulations. “I thought it would be a lot more formal and take a lot longer for someone to actually join a big community like the United States.”

Marchant, who played hockey as a child, said there is room in his heart, although perhaps not in his schedule, for his new country’s national pastime, baseball. In addition to teaching law and traveling the world to talk about the intersection of law with science, he is Executive Director of the College of Law’s Center for Law, Science & Innovation, the ASU Lincoln Professor of Emerging Technologies, Law and Ethics, a Senior Sustainability Scientist in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, and Associate Director of the ASU Origins Institute.

Marchant said he will not press his children to consider dual citizenship.

“I told my son that, because I’m Canadian, he can become Canadian, too, and he cried,” he laughed.

And although his native land is known for its fine comedians –Eugene Levy, Norm Macdonald and Catherine O’Hara, among them – Marchant said his loyalties there won’t change. “I’m a John Cleese fan,” he noted.

Today was all about taking a new look at some things you take for granted. And for me, it began in the most unsurprising of places—in front of my computer.

When it comes to conferencing, I typically go old school, like most people. Pack a bag, travel away from home, sit in conference rooms, watch TV in your conference hotel. And then trek home with a poorly constructed conference satchel bearing voluminous materials you’ll probably never use. You know, fun.

But when I saw that there was a conference titled “Governance in Virtual Worlds,” I was interested. I grew more interested when I saw that there were three ways to attend:

1.      Go online in a traditional way.

2.      Go online, create an avatar, and attend in a virtual world.

3.      Drive over to Arizona State University, park, sit in a room, and trek back to the office bearing voluminous materials I’d probably never use.

And, oh yeah, all three options were free.

Well, my hopes were dashed early when my limited “privileges” at my work computer denied me the pleasure of downloading what was necessary to register in virtual world. And so ended my dreams of crafting a buff dragon-slayer named Vord or Flaggen or anything else that sounded like an IKEA end-table.

But attend in person, like the ancient, primitive people of, um, 2009? Not for me, I tell you.

And so I logged on, watched and listened.

Ultimately, I wish I could tell you I now “get” Second Life. But I think that will take me more than a few hours. For me, Linden dollars would just be another shrinking currency in my anemic 401k. But enjoy the conference I did.

Gary Marchant, ASU Law School

Co-sponsored by the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor Law School and “World2World Immersive Virtual Events” (in Second Life, no one can hear you scream about overly long names), it brought together (for reals) big thinkers from a number of walks of life.

So for the price of my own bad office coffee and some occasionally garbled Second Life voices, I sat at my desk and listened to Gary Marchant, an ASU Law professor, as well as Joshua Fairfield (Washington & Lee School of Law) and Gregory Lastowka (Rutgers School of Law).

Why them? Well, the conference had five or six panel discussions throughout the morning, but I especially wanted to “attend” the one titled “Real Laws in Virtual Space.”

Joshua Fairfield, Washington & Lee School of Law

It was very good, but here’s the takeaway: It’s an awful lot like real laws in the real world: It’s complex and confusing, and there are many competing visions.

Damn. We always hope law school is finally behind us, but it never really is. I had been hoping that if people got together to create something wholly new, with no preconceptions, like in a, I don’t know, virtual world, they would avoid all of the nutty anomalies that dog the long slog of human evolution. But no. I’ve now peered into virtual worlds, and I report back to you: It’s a mess in there, too.

Fortunately, Second Life appears to have all kinds of smart working on those problems, so perhaps there’s more hope, legally speaking, in there than out here with the rest of us. An analog fellow can dream, can’t he?

Greg Lastowka, Rutgers School of Law

Next post, I’ll explain how that same Friday afternoon, I got yet another chance to see things in new ways. Ironically, it was while attending (in person) another ASU event, this one with a linguistics expert who also happens to be a capital case lawyer from California. Her name is Mel Greenlee, but more on that later.

To get a little digital on you, here are my tweets from today’s conference, confusion and all:

  • Free #ASULaw conference online now: “Governance in Virtual Worlds,” #asuvirtual
  • We are “virtually attending” an ASU Law School conference “Governance in Virtual Worlds,” including “Real Laws in Virtual Space” at 9:15. Follow our updates on Twitter, search for #asuvirtual
  • “As a society we are hesitant to have youth fully participate in democratic processes” #asuvirtual
  • Virtual worlds and second life are “participatory education.” It gives you “individual sense of agency” #asuvirtual
  • Agenda and login information (FREE!) for “Governance in Virtual Worlds,” currently in progress http://tinyurl.com/yl4pnb6
  • “You want my employees to play games and call it work?” Yes – adults learn in various ways, just as kids do #asuvirtual
  • “There is no shortage of legal issues and laws in #SecondLife” #asuvirtual
  • As speaker, lawyer #JoeRosenbaum, says “Next slide please,” interface reads “There are no slides for this presentation” ugh #asuvirtual
  • “Live” avatars and interface during Second Life conference: Funky, odd, intriguing #asuvirtual
  • “As a society we are hesitant to have youth fully participate in democratic processes” #asuvirtual
  • #JoshuaFairfield Wrong to ask how real-world laws affect virtual world — impact now runs in the other direction #asuvirtual
  • #JoshuaFairfield “We are a tangle of social connections” #asuvirtual
  • #JoshuaFairfield “Property is dead or dying, rules changing so fast as to be unrecognizable” #asuvirtual
  • #RutgersLaw Prof #GregLastowka “Much of copyright law doesn’t make sense in the Internet, which is largely all about copying” #asuvirtual
  • #RutgersLaw Prof #GregLastowka mentions #LarryLessig’s book “Code” #asuvirtual
  • Finally decided simply to listen to conference, like a radio, rather than look at the interesting but no-value-added interface #asuvirtual
  • Law spends a lot of time talking about who gets to set the rules online. Online community should decide, with real-world input #asuvirtual
  • “But rules of the virtual world should not simply be what the online corporations say they should be” #asuvirtual
  • Interaction of all the online-world rules set by multiple parties “almost inconceivable” #JoeRosenbaum #asuvirtual
  • #JoshuaFairfield “It’s odd to apply real-world law online, because community’s intuitions are completely different” #asuvirtual
  • Thanks for following updates on #asuvirtual. More panels ongoing while we return to real world. Updates later at https://azatty.wordpress.com