Academic journal article Health Law Review

Field Notes

Academic journal article Health Law Review

Field Notes

Article excerpt

One of Health Law's most fascinating aspects is its diversity of application. Coupled with the ability to respond to nuanced and multifaceted challenges, this broad scope arms the field well to play an increasingly important role informing public policy in a wide variety of areas. Few other domains of law continually engage with so many different disciplines, including medicine, bench science, media studies, philosophy and public opinion research, to name but a few of health law's key partners. This collaborative approach is often central to the success of health law initiatives, particularly when concerned with emerging areas of biotechnology. The growing direct-to-consumer (DTC) market for genetic testing services, available primarily on the internet, is one such area that presents a number of challenges.

DTC genetic testing engages privacy interests as private companies collect potentially sensitive information (including current health information and genetic predispositions) about their clients and, by virtue of the nature of genetic information, their clients' immediate relatives. How this information is stored and protected, and under what conditions it can be used, varies widely. Consent is also an issue, particularly regarding testing of minor children and incapacitated adults. Concerns regarding the potential for genetic discrimination arise, as do worries about the long term effects of this information, including the possibility of atalistic or deterministic behaviour. The burdens and costs to healthcare systems if individuals rely on their doctors to interpret test results, or request follow-up testing, must also be considered. These are but a few of the issues raised by DTC genetic testing.

Naturally, these concerns are not universally agreed upon, and substantial barriers to regulation exist. …

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