Why Do You Need A Doctor's Note To Get A Genetic Test?

from the makes-no-sense dept

There have been a bunch of personal genetic testing services popping up over the past couple of years. One of the most well known is 23andMe, who got a PR lift for being founded by Sergey Brin's wife -- and also getting an investment from Google. Typically, the program lets people send in a cheek swab and receive back personal genetic info. These services are still in their early stages, but the few folks I know who have used 23andMe have found it to be an interesting learning process. However, now it's coming out that 23andMe and other personal genetic testing services may actually be breaking California law. California has sent a bunch of these firms cease-and-desist letters demanding they close up shop until certain conditions are met.

Apparently any labs doing the tests need to get both state and federal certification and can only do tests based on a physician's recommendation. The state claims it sent the letters after receiving "multiple consumer complaints about the accuracy and costs of genetic testing advertised on the Internet." This seems quite questionable for a variety of reasons. First, if people have "complaints" about the costs... then the proper response is to simply not buy the test. I have complaints about the price of Ferraris, but I'm not going to complain to the state of California -- and I doubt that the state would send cease and desist letters to Ferrari dealers.

Secondly, it seems quite ridiculous to say that these sorts of tests can only be taken with permission from a physician. There seems no reason not to let those who are willing to pay the associated fees to get a personal genetic test without involving a physician at all. As we move more and more towards more personalized medicine, this problem is only going to come up more and more. Not all medical tests and treatments need to be done under a doctor's care -- and requiring it in all cases seems more like a way to protect physicians' fees rather than citizens' health.
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Filed Under: california, cease-and-desist, genetic tests
Companies: 23andme


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2008 @ 12:45pm

    This is about who owns my body - and therefore any data derived from my body. The lab is just translating something that's too small for me to see with typical home equipment into a printout. The DNA is mine; the printed form of the DNA map is mine also. Period.

    Unfortuanately, current body of law does not reflect the idea that you own your body. For example, if a patentable drug is directly derived from something inside your biochemistry, you have no claim to it whatsoever. Only the company that "developed" it has claim.

    Amazing but true.

    Back to the point: My DNA, whether in molecular form or printout form. Mine. Period. Paying someone to translate the data form one format to another should absolutely not require the "permission" from an MD any more than paying a company to translate the data on an old floppy to a modern USB key should require the "permission" of your nearest certified IT expert. My data.

    If we don't begin to fight these laws NOW, the ownership of our own bodies will continue to be taken from us.

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