Genetic Duties

70 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2020 Last revised: 23 Nov 2020

See all articles by Jessica L. Roberts

Jessica L. Roberts

Emory University School of Law

Alexandra Foulkes de la Parra

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

Date Written: November 21, 2020


Our genes don’t change but the results of our genetic tests might. The first is basic biology. The second, a product of the reality that we are still learning about the human genome. A person who took a genetic test in 2010 could take the same test with the same lab in 2020 and get a different result. The law, however, does not reflect this difference. At present, no legal duty requires laboratories or physicians to inform patients when a laboratory reclassifies a genetic variant, even if the reclassification communicates clinically actionable information. This Article considers the need for such duties and their potential challenges. In so doing, we hope to offer much needed guidance to the physicians and the laboratories that may face liability and to the courts that will inevitably hear these cases.

Keywords: torts, medical malpractice, negligence, genetics

JEL Classification: K13

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Jessica L. and Foulkes de la Parra, Alexandra, Genetic Duties (November 21, 2020). 62 William & Mary Law Review 143 (2020), Available at SSRN:

Jessica L. Roberts (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

Alexandra Foulkes de la Parra

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ( email )

515 Rusk St.
Houston, TX 77002


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