In Favor of an Action for Genetic Conversion

12 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2019

Date Written: March 15, 2019


Traditionally, courts and legal scholars alike have rejected conversion claims related to DNA. Justifications for dismissing these causes of action include fears that they could hinder scientific research or commodify the human body. Judges and academics reason that—even absent actionable claims for genetic conversion—plaintiffs have access to adequate legal protections in the form of breach of fiduciary duty, lack of informed consent, invasion of privacy, or unjust enrichment. However, upon closer inspection, these claims reveal themselves as inadequate, particularly in the context of consumer genetics. People who purchase their genetic tests directly are not usually in the kinds of fiduciary or research relationships necessary to trigger legal duties. This Essay proposes that a right to genetic conversion could provide consumers with appropriate relief. Far from stifling research or disaggregating the self, genetic conversion is a modest solution for the ownership disputes that arise in the growing field of consumer genetics.

Keywords: conversion, property, law, genetics, bioethics, data, ownership, consumer genetics

JEL Classification: K11, K32

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Jessica L., Genetic Conversion (March 15, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Jessica L. Roberts (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4800 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204
United States

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