• By Dana Sparks

In the Loop: Bioethics at the cinema program shows reel life can influence real life

August 7, 2018


A new program in Rochester, Minnesota, mixes movies and medicine in order to "create community dialogues" around complex biomedical ethics issues.


Sometimes a movie can change the way we see the world. For Nathaniel Newman, a movie changed the way the world saw him. That movie, "Wonder," tells the story of a boy born with craniofacial differences. It's a story Nathaniel knew long before he saw the movie or read the bestselling book that inspired it.

Born with a craniofacial difference called Treacher Collins syndrome, Nathaniel endured 53 surgeries by the time he was 11, reports ABC's "20/20." In those years he's endured many stares — and worse — from children and adults alike. But that's been changing, thanks to author R. J. Palacio's big-hearted story, which is "single-handedly making life easier for children with facial differences," Nathaniel's father, Russel, tells "20/20."

As the Newman family has discovered, fiction can often accomplish what facts alone can't, moving people toward understanding. That's one of the reasons the Mayo Clinic Biomedical Ethics Research Program and Rochester Public Library launched "Bioethics at the Cinema." The program aims "to use popular films to create community dialogues around important, often complex biomedical ethics issues," according to Mayo's Advancing the Science blog. In March, the program screened "Ex Machina," followed by a discussion on artificial intelligence. In April, it was "The Danish Girl" and a discussion on transgender health care. And in July — National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness Month — the program will screen "Wonder." After the film, a panel that includes a genetic counselor and other professionals who work with people who have disabilities will discuss the movie. Read the rest of the article.
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This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.

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