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Current Issue: July 2016
Unlocking Genetic Secrets: Liability Risks for Genetic Testing and Information Providers

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Liability Risks Related to Genetic Information

The role of human genetics in healthcare has profound implications for physicians and patients. Genetic testing now is recognized for its role in the prevention, management and treatment of disease. The identification of genetic disorders has enabled physicians to predict which patients may be likely to develop a disease or condition, to prevent the development of the disease or condition in some cases, and in others to use genetically targeted medication to fight these diseases.


Although many benefits may be associated with the advances in genetic testing, there are also some risks. These include physical risks associated with the testing process as well as risks associated with the emotional, social, or financial consequences of the test results. Other risks may be associated with negligence of healthcare providers related to genetic testing or counseling. Risks may arise in the context of privacy rights related to the confidentiality of genetic information.


Injuries related to genetic testing or counseling, or the use or misuse of genetic information, may give rise to legal claims, which can result in high settlements and awards. Attorneys, physicians, hospitals, insurers, employers, and others at risk for liability should be aware of the types of litigation issues that may arise in connection with genetic information, testing, or counseling.

The Perspectives: Improve Your Strategy


What proof is needed to recover damages in an action for malpractice related to genetic testing or counseling? And, what is a potential strategy for the attorney to employ?


How can liability for medical malpractice related to genetic testing or counseling be avoided by a physician or genetic counselor? And, what is a potential strategy for the provider to employ?


Can an insurer be found liable for discrimination based on genetic information? And, what is a potential strategy for the insurer to employ?


Can an employer be subject to liability for the use of employee genetic information? And, what is a potential strategy for the employer to use?

Practice the Technique: Checklists


Check this list of facts and circumstances tending to show a provider’s liability for malpractice or negligence in an action involving genetic testing, genetic counseling, or genetic conditions or disorders.


Presented is a checklist of items a physician must consider when defending against claims of malpractice or negligence involving genetic testing, genetic counseling, or genetic conditions or disorders.


The insurer should check these “red flags” and inconsistencies when investigating a claim involving genetic testing, genetic counseling, or genetic conditions or disorders.


Use this checklist to determine if the employer’s use of an employee’s genetic information exposes the employer to liability for discrimination in violation of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

Expert Analysis

When Should Women Who Are Planning a Pregnancy Obtain Genetic Counseling?

Siobhan M. Dolan, MD, MPH

Are There Genes That When Activated or Missing Could Predispose Men to Disease?

Yun-Fai Chris Lau, PhD

What Are the Key Components of Genetic Counseling for Couples Undergoing IVF?

Amy Vance, MS, LCGC

What Are the Key Considerations When Providing Cancer Genetic Counseling?

Mary E. Freivogel, MS, CGC


Alternative Dispute Resolution

Arbitration or mediation may be required by contract or statute, may be mandated by the court or, in some circumstances, may be the appropriate method for a negotiated resolution.  

Reasons To Reach Settlement

The following are reasons why the attorney, physician, insurer, or employer would want to reach settlement, and not take the action to trial.

Reasons To Go To Trial

The following are reasons why the attorney, physician, insurer, or employer would want to take the action to trial.

Jury Awards and Settlements

How much have juries awarded and what settlements have been reached recently in cases involving genetic testing and inherited diseases? 

Medical Information


This section provides detailed medical information on genetics including an overview of genetics; the terminology used; the prediction, counseling, and prevention of genetic diseases and disorders; inheritance of a genetic disease or disorder; birth defects, cancers, other genetic diseases and disorders, and genetic testing. This section also mentions a patient’s prognosis and ability to work with a genetic disease or disorder.

Law and Medicine Resources

Law and Medicine Resources

Provided is a listing of law and medical resources for further information on genetics.

Medical Law Perspectives
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