Attorney and ethicist
Born in 1952, in Chicago, IL; married Clem (divorced); children: Christopher. Education: Yale University, B.A.; Yale Law School, J.D., 1978.
Addresses: Office —Chicago-Kent College of Law, 565 West Adams St., Chicago, IL 60661.
Research fellow, American Bar Foundation, 1980-1992; senior scholar, Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, University of Chicago, c. 1995—; law professor and director of the Institute of Science, Law and Technology, Chicago-Kent College of Law, c. 1993—.
Awards: Named one of the 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America by the National Law Journal.
When doctors, lawmakers, and reporters need someone to help them navigate the uncertain quandaries of new genetic and reproductive technologies, they frequently call Lori B. Andrews, a top independent expert on bioethics. "I'm interested in the areas where the law has not caught up with medical technology," Andrews told the Chicago Tribune 's Charles Leroux. "It's gotten to the point," she added, "where people say, 'If there's no law, call her.'"
Andrews was born in Chicago and grew up in suburban Downers Grove, Illinois. Her legal career began at the same time as the revolution in reproductive
At first, she had trouble gaining respect because she was a young woman; she would end up on discussion panels where she was half the age of everyone else. A professional organization once asked her to recommend a male expert to speak on an issue she knew well, then asked her to speak as long as she made herself look authoritative but less glamorous. But she was invited to speak at the First World Congress on in-vitro fertilization and testified before Congress. By the time surrogate motherhood became a major controversy with the "Baby M" case in 1986, Andrews had established herself as an expert, and she took on the issue in her 1989 book, Between Strangers: Surrogate Mothers, Expectant Fathers, and Brave New Babies.
In something of a detour in her writing career, Andrews spent much of her spare time from 1989 through 1996 researching and writing a biography of Johnny Spain, a former member of the radical Black Panther party. Spain was a mixed-race child born to a white woman who sent him away at the age of five to a black family his mother did not know. Andrews, who wanted to write a book about how the American justice system treats black defendants, wrote Black Power, White Blood: The Life and Times of Johnny Spain, published in 1996, and promoted the book along with Spain, including on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
One reason Andrews' opinions are so respected is that she does not work for the biotechnology industry or a religious organization, two major players in the debates over bioethics and the law. Andrews lives only on her academic salary from the Chicago-Kent College of Law, her earnings from her writing, and some grants from public agencies. She handles legal cases, gives speeches, and appears at conferences for free, asking only for expenses, to avoid conflicts of interest. She has written more than 100 articles on biotechnology, genetics, and reproductive technology, is often quoted in news articles on the subjects, and has appeared often on television news shows such as 60 Minutes and Today. "She appears on-camera as aristocratic and self-assured, the fearless female lawyer Hollywood has revered in movies," wrote Stephanie B. Goldberg in More. "Off-camera, however, you encounter a very different Andrews: warm, outgoing, self-effacing, giggly and indefatigable."
Her opinions on new biotechnologies are not predictable. Her concern for individual rights makes her sympathetic toward some new procedures, as in the early 1980s, when she urged Congress to allow couples to use new fertility treatments. As new technologies have multiplied, though, she has become more likely to express concern. She is opposed to human cloning, for instance, and helped write legislation introduced by a senator to ban it. That cautious approach places Andrews in conflict with the optimism of many researchers. Joseph D. McInerney, who reviewed her 2001 book Future Perfect: Confronting Decisions About Genetics for the Quarterly Review of Biology, praised her treatment of the legal issues around genetic medicine and the way it changes people's perceptions of disease. "She has a tendency, however, to downplay the potential benefits of genetics and to focus only on the prospects for harm," he wrote.
Andrews addressed that mindset in her interview with the Chicago Tribune 's Leroux. "I'm always dealing with legal cases where things have gone wrong, so I tend to focus on the negative. But I absolutely acknowledge the value of medical research. I just want to be sure the benefits are distributed fairly and there is disclosure of the risks."
On the issue of stem-cell research, she takes a middle ground. A feminist who favors abortion rights, she does not believe in stopping stem-cell research to protect embryos. But she does suggest minimal standards for the research. "There at least should be good rules about getting consent from the couple donating the embryo and making sure that the research being done is important," she told More 's Goldberg. In fall of 2004 she spoke out against California's ballot proposal to fund stem cell research, saying it offered public funding to biotechnology research without regulating it or requiring it to provide research benefits to the public.
Andrews argues that the practice of patenting human genes and gene therapies hurts the public. She often notes that one company claims the genes that predispose women to breast cancer as its intellectual property, so it can charge about $2,500 in licensing fees for a lab test that could cost $50. Her 2001 book The Body Bazaar: The Market for Human Tissue in the Biotechnology Age, co-authored with Dorothy Nelkin, explains how John Moore, a Seattle businessman with leukemia, began to question why his doctor in California, David Golde, kept insisting he come back for more tests for several years after the doctor cured his cancer by removing his spleen. Eventually Moore learned that Golde had discovered unique antibodies in his blood, grown a cell line from it and patented it. Golde later sold the cell line to a drug company for $15 million. Moore sued for malpractice and property theft in 1988, but the California Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that Moore could not claim his blood or antibodies as property or lay claim to the profits from the cell line.
Writing in the Chicago Tribune in November of 2003, Andrews argued that Congress should pass a law barring the patenting of human embryos. "If patents on human embryos are allowed, then biotech companies will market babies with certain traits just like Perdue markets chicken or Ford markets sportutility vehicles," she warned.
Someday, Andrews may find new ways to tell her story and those of the people who turn to her for advice. She said that she was working on a mystery novel with a female genetic researcher as the main character, and she has talked with the NBC television network about possibly developing a TV show based on her work and the bizarre ethical dilemmas people ask her to resolve.
Birth of a Salesman: Lawyer Advertising and Solicitation, 2nd ed., ABA Press, 1980.
Deregulating Doctoring: Do Medical Licensing Laws Meet Today's Health Care Needs?, People's Medical Society, 1983.
New Conceptions: A Consumer's Guide to the Newest Infertility Treatments, Including In Vitro Fertilization, Artificial Insemination, and Surrogate Motherhood, St. Martin's Press, 1984.
Medical Genetics: A Legal Frontier, American Bar Foundation, 1987.
Between Strangers: Surrogate Mothers, Expectant Fathers, and Brave New Babies, HarperCollins, 1989.
Black Power, White Blood: The Life and Times of Johnny Spain, Pantheon, 1996.
The Clone Age: Adventures in the New World of Reproductive Technology, Henry Holt, 1999.
Future Perfect: Confronting Decisions About Genetics, Columbia University Press, 2001.
(Co-author) The Body Bazaar: The Market for Human Tissue in the Biotechnology Age, Crown Publishers, 2001.
(Co-author) Genetics: Ethics, Law and Policy, West Publishing, 2002.
Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, OH), April 7, 2001, p. B1.
Chicago Tribune, December 13, 1996, p. 1; October 7, 2001, p. 12; November 9, 2003.
Cincinnati Post, October 26, 2004, p. A10.
More, November 2001, pp. 68-72.
Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), January 29, 2000, p. 1F.
Quarterly Review of Biology, June 2002, p. 199.
"Faculty Biographies," Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.kentlaw.edu/faculty/Andrews_bio.html (February 21, 2005).
"Faculty Publications," Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.kentlaw.edu/faculty/scholarship/Andrews_pubs.html (February 25, 2005).