Bioethics Panel Urges More Gene Privacy Protection
It sounds like a scene from a TV show: Someone sends a discarded coffee cup to a laboratory, where the unwitting drinker’s DNA is decoded, predicting what diseases lurk in his or her future.
A presidential commission found that’s legally possible in about half the states — and says new protections to ensure the privacy of people’s genetic information are critical if the nation is to realize the enormous medical potential of gene-mapping.
Such whole genome sequencing costs too much now for that extreme coffee-cup scenario to be likely. But the report being released Thursday says the price is dropping so rapidly that the technology could become common in doctors’ offices very soon — and there are lots of ethical issues surrounding how, when and with whom the results may be shared.
Without public trust, people may not be as willing to allow scientists to study their genetic information, key to learning to better fight disease, the report warns.