In Memoriam: Dorothy Wertz
Fletcher, John, Knoppers, Bartha-Maria, Nippert, Irmgard, The Hastings Center Report
Dorothy Wertz died in Cancun, Mexico, on 29 April 2003. She suffered a heart attack while scuba diving, a pastime that she loved, but had been visiting Cancun to attend a meeting of the Human Genome Organization, many of whose statements bear her mark. Her death is a great loss to international bioethics and the social sciences.
After earning a doctoral degree in religion from Harvard University in 1969, Dorothy taught at Bryn Mawr College. Facing barriers in a male-dominated field, she renewed an interest in the social sciences. Instead of doing more graduate work, however, she worked her way into the discipline by teaching sociology courses in seven different New England colleges. She studied statistics and methods as a fellow of the National Science Foundation (1982-84) and got her first chance at social research in clinical genetics. Sociologist Jim Sorenson, an early Hastings Fellow, asked Dorothy to work on the first major evaluation of genetic counseling. Their main finding was that counseling often reassured parents with genetic concerns, who often then had more children. After a memorable article on the different agendas of counselors and counselees, her career took off. Later, she served as senior social scientist at the Shriver Center for Mental Retardation with Philip Reilly.
Dorothy wrote by hand on a yellow pad with few revisions, but she rarely published alone. …