Creating expectations : the bioethics of genetics as reflected in selected South African media with specific reference to CRISPR-Cas9

Rademan, Anna Elizabeth (2020-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In the era of genetic engineering, the CRISPR-Cas9 system has been hailed as one of the most important genetic discoveries and is often discussed in terms of its momentous potential applications on health. However, from a bioethical perspective, the technology poses several challenges with regards to safety, regulation and human enhancement. The field of genetic engineering and bioethics have moved from academic journals to the mass media. The news media’s reporting on complex bioethical issues such as CRISPR-Cas9 can influence the public’s perception and understanding thereof. Literature confirms that the news media, as part of the public domain, also shape subsequent ethical policies and regulations. Therefore, this study aims to investigate expectations that the South African media create surrounding the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing system. In the South African context, academic research in this area is still limited. Situated in the field of journalism studies, this study used a combination of qualitative and quantitative content analysis of CRISPR-Cas9 related articles from the top 10 most popular South African news media sites between January 2013 and June 2019. The study extended knowledge in the field of science and bioethics reporting in the South African news media. Certain problems were observed with regards to evidence-based science journalism as not enough attention was given to specific research applications or methodological aspects of CRISPR-Cas9 and therefore it is difficult for the audience to separate science hype from evidence-based research. The bioethical debate is evident in the articles analysed and showed the tension between the promotion of science but also the caution towards the risks of CRISPR-Cas9. These risks include technical, ethical, legal, and social aspects that need to be addressed before it will be ethically acceptable to use the technology on the human germline. The media play a pivotal part in facilitating the public debate and encouraging public discussion about the governance of the technology. The theory of framing played an important role, and the use of frames can be useful as an aid to explanation and creating cultural and social meaning. However, the choice of frames should be carefully considered because they may misrepresent and mislead public perception of the technology. The news media should perhaps not resurrect old frames such as the Frankenstein myth but instead develop new meaningful metaphors together with evidence-based science journalism.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In die era van genetiese redigering word die CRISPR-Cas9 tegniek beskou as een van die belangrikste genetiese ontdekkings en word gereeld bespreek in die konteks van potensiële belangrike toepassings op gesondheid. Uit 'n bio-etiese perspektief het die tegnologie egter verskeie uitdagings met betrekking tot veiligheid, regulering en onderwerpe soos ontwerpersbabas. Die veld van genetiese redigering en bio-etiek is van akademiese vaktydskrifte oorgedra na die massamedia. Die nuusmedia se verslaggewing oor ingewikkelde bio-etiese kwessies soos CRISPR-Cas9 kan die openbare persepsie en begrip daarvan beïnvloed. Literatuur bevestig dat die nuusmedia as deel van die publieke domein etiese beleide en regulasies kan vorm. Daarom is dit hierdie studie se doel om verwagtinge wat die Suid-Afrikaanse media rondom die CRISPR-Cas9 tegnologie skep, te ondersoek. In die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks is akademiese navorsing op hierdie gebied steeds beperk. Hierdie studie, geleë in die veld van joernalistieke studies, het tussen Januarie 2013 en Junie 2019 'n kombinasie van kwalitatiewe en kwantitatiewe inhoudsanalise van CRISPR-Cas9-verwante artikels van die top 10 gewildste Suid-Afrikaanse nuusmedia-webwerwe gebruik. Die studie het kennis in die gebied van wetenskap en bio-etiekverslaggewing in die Suid-Afrikaanse nuusmedia uitgebrei. Sekere probleme is waargeneem met betrekking tot bewysgebaseerde wetenskapjoernalistiek, omdat daar nie genoeg aandag gevestig is op spesifieke navorsings-toepassings of metodiek van CRISPR-Cas9 nie, en daarom is dit moeilik vir die gehoor om oordrewe wetenskap van bewysgebaseerde navorsing te skei. Die bio-etiese debat kan duidelik gesien word in die geanaliseerde artikels en dui op spanning tussen die bevordering van wetenskap en die risiko's van CRISPR-Cas9. Hierdie risikos sluit tegniese, etiese, wetlike en sosiale aspekte in wat aangespreek moet word voordat dit eties aanvaarbaar is om die menslikegenoom te redigeer. Die media speel 'n belangrike rol in die fasilitering van die openbare debat asook die aanmoediging van gesprekke oor die regulering van die tegnologie. Die raamwerkteorie het 'n belangrike rol gespeel in die studie. Die gebruik van rame kan nuttig wees om die tegnologie te verduidelik en kulturele en sosiale betekenis te skep. Die keuse van rame moet egter noukeurig oorweeg word, omdat dit die openbare persepsie van die tegnologie verkeerd kan voorstel en lesers mislei. Die nuusmedia moet eerder nie ou rame soos die Frankenstein-mite gebruik nie, maar eerder nuwe betekenisvolle metafore ontwikkel saam met bewysgebaseerde wetenskapsjoernalistiek.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/107954
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