Hastings Women’s Law Journal


Dr. Legato's keynote speech, delivered at the Journal's Symposium, covered the evolution of gendered approaches to medical examination and research from the early 1900s up to today. This issue features a transcribed version of that address. In the early 1900s, doctors and medical researchers focused solely on men as normative subjects representative of the population at large. Since then, the focus has shifted; first, to a dual approach, considering both sexes, and then, to a greater emphasis on women, to the detriment of the male community. The classic debate of nature versus nurter has been a recurring theme throughout these shifts of focus. What is biologically hardwired and what is a consequence of social forces? Perhaps the response need not be dualistic; nature and nurture may be complimentary considerations, not mutually exclusive forces. Exciting scientific revelations further probe this debate. The Human Genome Project in 2000 sparked questions regarding how prevention and cure of disease may differ for male and female patients. Today, in 2011, the advent of synthetic biology begs the question, does sex matter? With synthetic biology, scientists are working toward creating living organisms with the ablity to reproduce from inert chemicals. Dr. Legato hypothesizes that evolution may no longer be based in natural selection in the Darwinian sense, as genetic engineering is changing the very nature of created life.