Precision Medicine and the Risk to Privacy

The SciTech Lawyer,15(1);28-32 (2018).

6 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2018

See all articles by Mark A. Rothstein

Mark A. Rothstein

University of Louisville - Institute for Bioethics, Health Policy, and Law; University of Louisville - Louis D. Brandeis School of Law

Date Written: September 1, 2018


The decreasing cost of genome and exome sequencing, including direct-to-consumer testing, produces information asymmetry between applicants and life insurance companies, which increases the risk of adverse selection. Rather than requiring applicants for life insurance to undergo genetic testing, life insurers ought to revise their policies and not use the results of genetic tests in the medical records of applicants for underwriting. Prohibitions on access to genetic test results already have been adopted without great upheaval in several other countries. There are two main reasons why this new approach should be used in the United States. First, genetic test results do not provide essential information that is not already available through traditional underwriting measures. Second, because many individuals at genetically increased risk of serious disorders currently decline testing out of fear of the economic consequences, policies prohibiting the use of genetic test results in life insurance will encourage genetic testing and facilitate timely surveillance and necessary medical intervention, thereby saving lives.

Note: ©2018. Published in the SciTech Lawyer, Vol. 5, No. 1, Fall 2018, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

Keywords: Adverse Selection, Genetic Discrimination, Genetic Testing, Life Insurance, Medical Underwriting

JEL Classification: K40

Suggested Citation

Rothstein, Mark A., Precision Medicine and the Risk to Privacy (September 1, 2018). The SciTech Lawyer,15(1);28-32 (2018).. Available at SSRN:

Mark A. Rothstein (Contact Author)

University of Louisville - Institute for Bioethics, Health Policy, and Law ( email )

Louisville, KY 40202
United States


University of Louisville - Louis D. Brandeis School of Law ( email )

Wilson W. Wyatt Hall
Louisville, KY 40292
United States

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