In the latest episode of BioTalk we discuss genetic testing and what could happen to your DNA after it leaves your body.
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Generally speaking, genetic testing is ethically neutral. In fact, in some cases it may be medically, and therefore ethically, necessary.
But, whether you’re getting tested for legitimate health reasons or just to find out “who you are” and where you came from, you should be aware that once your DNA leaves your body you have zero control over what happens to it.
This is important to understand because there is a lot of money to be made on harvestable biological material.
A recent example of this is the news that the consumer genetic testing company, 23andMe, has been selling access to its enormous DNA database to more than 13 drug companies.
One, Genentech, anted up $10 million for a look at the genes of people with Parkinson’s disease.
That means 23andMe is monetizing DNA rather the way Facebook makes money from our “likes.” What’s more, it gets its customers to pay for the privilege.
But consumer genetic testing companies aren’t the only concern. Rebecca noted two cases in the past involving patients whose blood/tissue samples, submitted for cancer treatment, were later developed into commercial cell lines for research without their consent:
As Rebecca noted, John Moore brought his case to the California Supreme Court, which ruled that a hospital patient’s discarded blood and tissue samples are not his personal property and that individuals do not have rights to a share in the profits earned from commercial products or research derived from their cells.
Michael Crichton’s novel Next is based on Moore’s case.
Once again, this is not meant to dissuade you from genetic testing, per se, even just out of curiosity about your ancestry, but to help you be a better informed consumer/patient.
Questions worth asking before submitting any genetic material: What is the scope of the research; How long will your samples will be kept; Will they be used for further testing?