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Should families own genetic information? Yes

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 05 July 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:22
  1. Anneke Lucassen, consultant
  1. Wessex Clinical Genetics Service, Princess Anne Hospital, Southampton SO16 5YA
  1. annekel{at}

    We all share our genetic make up with relatives, and Anneke Lucassen argues that we should also share ownership of the results of DNA analysis. Angus Clarke believes, however, that in most cases the knowledge can be considered private

    The genetic code is held inside the cells that make up a person's body. The genetic material, cells, and body might be seen to belong to that person, but does the genetic information deduced from this code belong (solely) to the individual? Just because you own a hard disk, does it mean that you own the data on it? Or a DVD, the film?

    Information from a particular section of genetic code can allow predictions or conclusions about a person's current or future health. The genetic code is inherited from parents and passed on to offspring. This transmission cannot be entirely avoided or altered. The red hair or blue eyes that a child has inherited from their parent signify a shared section of genetic code. Someone with achondroplasia probably has a mutation in the FGFR3 gene. Can it be said that the person owns this genetic information when it is clear for all …

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