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.