Whose Genes Are These Anyway?: Familial Conflicts over Access to Genetic Information

This Note argues first that courts and legislatures should follow a presumption against mandating disclosure of a person’s genetic information to third parties. Second, genetic testing for the benefit of a third party should not, and constitutionally cannot, be compelled. Part I presents an overview of genetics and discusses the special legal and ethical issues genetic testing poses. Part II examines the issue of nonconsensual disclosure to family members, who could potentially use the information from tests that have already been performed. This Part concludes that there should be a presumption against disclosure. Part III examines a related, but different, question regarding the constitutionality of mandatory genetic screening of an individual for the benefit of her family. It contends that such compulsory testing is unconstitutional and that public policy argues against it. Part IV offers legislative and judicial guidelines that prohibit mandatory genetic testing for the benefit of another family member and allow disclosure of test results only when the harm in failing to disclose significantly outweighs the harm from disclosure.