In DepthLaw and Medicine

Genomics breeds new legal questions

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Science  10 May 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6440, pp. 521
DOI: 10.1126/science.364.6440.521

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While DNA testing upends the practice of medicine, U.S. laws aren't keeping pace. Doctors and other health care providers are already facing lawsuits that broach new legal terrain. In some cases, they're being held liable for how they offer, interpret, and counsel patients about genetic tests. Failure to offer a test can carry legal risks—in one Pennsylvania case, a doctor was found to have a legal duty to his patient's teenage son, who died of an inherited heart condition. Another concern is a doctor's or a lab's responsibility when understanding of a variant changes after the initial testing. A $2 million project called LawSeq aims to build a legal foundation to support genomic medicine. Opinions from judges and new laws and regulations, which some believe are necessary, may also help health care practitioners determine how to avoid liability and offer guidance.