Beersheba geneticist, in Qatar, wins TV debate

Leading Soroka medical center researcher appears on Doha Debates program on inbreeding first cousins in Arab population.

April 1, 2012 18:08
1 minute read.
Doha Debates

Doha Debates_370. (photo credit: Courtesy Soroka University Medical Center)


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A leading geneticist at Soroka University Medical Center and Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba appeared in Qatar on the Doha Debates TV program over the weekend that was dedicated to the subject of consanguinity – inbreeding by first cousins that causes genetic disorders in the Arab population.

Prof. Ohad Birk, head of Soroka’s genetic institute and of the Morris Kahn Laboratory of Human Genetics at the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev, was invited to appear as a leading expert on the phenomenon, which medical experts and some Arab leaders are trying to prevent due to the human suffering involved. The program was broadcast by the BBC World News several times over the weekend.

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The Doha Debates program, hosted by Tim Sebastian, deals with two sides of a controversial issue. Sebastian previously hosted the prize-winning interview show Hard Talk.

The debate show is broadcast from the capital of Qatar to some 400 million viewers around the world, with participation by the BBC and leading Arab networks. It tackles many issues, but especially those that interest the Arab world.

Birk, who was presented as an Israeli geneticist, noted that he was initially worried about traveling to the Persian Gulf Arab state north of Saudi Arabia, but that his concerns evaporated as he was treated very warmly by the production staff and by the live audience from various Arab countries who filled the hall. At the end of the debate, 80 percent of those present voted in favor of discouraging inbreeding by close relatives.

Israel’s cable networks broadcast the show on Saturday and Sunday as well.

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