'Open to Dispute': CODIS STR Loci as Private Medical Information
Forensic Magazine, May 2014
6 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2014
Date Written: February 17, 2014
In Maryland v. King, 133 S. Ct. 1958 (2013), the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of collecting and using DNA soon after a person is arrested. In doing so, the Court wrote that “[t]he argument that the testing at issue in this case reveals any private medical information at all is open to dispute.” Emphasizing that “[t]he CODIS loci are from the non-protein coding junk regions of DNA,” the majority of the Justices seemed to question whether it was even possible that “non-coding alleles could provide some information.”
But if the issue is open to dispute, what evidence is available to resolve it, and what should the scientific community, and forensic scientists in particular, do to help? This essay recommends that forensic analysts address this issue with caution in their testimony and writing, that they avoid the confusing phrase “junk DNA,” and that genomic databases and the biomedical literature be monitored regularly to assess the extent to which individuals with access to law enforcement databases could make valid inferences about an individual’s medically or socially sensitive phenotypes.
Keywords: law enforcement DNA databases, medical privacy, CODIS loci, ENCODE
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