Bioethics, Bench, and Bar: Selected Arguments in Landry V. Attorney General
28 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2000
In Landry v. Attorney General, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld a statute that requires individuals convicted of a wide range of felonies to submit to the extraction of samples of their DNA for the analysis of individualizing features and for the inclusion of that data in a computerized database. Various organizations submitted amicus briefs to help the court understand the underlying science or technology or to appreciate the bioethical issues in using the data or samples in subsequent research. This article reviews portions of two of these briefs for their accuracy and completeness. It concludes that they are no less adversarial than those of the parties. It suggests that the arguments about invasions of a right to genetic privacy suffer in the translation from medical genetics to law enforcement identification databases. It also contends that whether research uses of data or samples should be allowed without the consent of the offenders is a question of public policy that cannot be resolved by absolute and sweeping claims that information on people can never be used without their consent. It urges that the developing norms of research on human subjects be examined with greater recognition of the differences between clinical or research uses of genetic data and law enforcement databanking.
Keywords: Bioethics, DNA Databanking, Genetic Privacy, Criminal Records
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