Biological Evaluations: Blood, Genes, and Family

58 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2008

See all articles by Janet Dolgin

Janet Dolgin

Hofstra University - School of Law

Date Written: October 8, 2008


This article addresses a striking contrast at the center of contemporary social and legal views of family. The traditional family, forged in the early years of the Industrial Revolution to support the interests of the marketplace, has largely collapsed. In its place, the law and society have increasingly recognized the significance of autonomous individuality in the construction of family relationships. At the same time, however, society has become obsessed with the apparent significance of DNA in determining individual and familial identity.

As options for creating and defining families have multiplied, society and the law have struggled to construct a variety of frames within which to shape and regulate contemporary families. The article analyzes four social responses. The first, referred to as the flesh and blood family, harmonizes most closely with understandings of the traditional family. The second, referred to as the reprogenetic family, most closely resembles contemporary families of choice. The third, referred to as families of shared DNA, imbues genes with the power to encompass both tradition and choice. And the fourth, the medicalized family, depends centrally on presumptive biological (genetic) facts. Each of these responses to family may seem disconcerting insofar as forms of family that have emerged in the last several decades are generally seen as having discarded or downplayed the notion that biological relationship is or should be central to definitions of family.

Keywords: bioethics, genetics, medicalized families, donor relatives, traditional families

Suggested Citation

Dolgin, Janet, Biological Evaluations: Blood, Genes, and Family (October 8, 2008). Akron Law Review, Vol. 41, p. 347, 2008; Hofstra Univ. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-13. Available at SSRN:

Janet Dolgin (Contact Author)

Hofstra University - School of Law ( email )

121 Hofstra University
Hempstead, NY 11549
United States

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