Hastings Law Journal


Sherwin Chen


Continuing advances in the science of molecular genetics have produced technologies that are capable of transforming our most fundamental perceptions of life and death. The fruits of genetic research have enabled doctors to identify the sex of children before they are born, as well as estimate their chances for developing hundreds of types of diseases. Other technologies based on this science include new identification techniques, limited therapies, and even new forms of life. With these unprecedented and powerful new possibilities, it is clear that the social and legal dimensions of genetic research and related technologies deserve careful examination. The purpose of this Note is to examine these complex issues through a general treatment of current genetic information technologies and an overview of the relevant legal landscape. Issues such as genetic discrimination, genetic determinism, and privacy concerns are discussed in a historical, social, and legal context in order to evaluate the real and potential consequences of the deployment of genetic information technologies. This Note concludes by proposing a policy of prudent science and proactive law to govern the research, development, and use of genetic information technologies. This Note argues that the nature of these technologies creates a condition of uncertainty that justifies a deceleration of research and development efforts until social, ethical, and legal concerns can be properly addressed.

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