Genetic Duties

64 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2020

See all articles by Jessica L. Roberts

Jessica L. Roberts

University of Houston Law Center

Alexandra Foulkes

U.S. District Court Western District of Oklahoma

Date Written: February 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, Alexandra, Genetic Duties (February 21, 2020). William & Mary Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Jessica L. Roberts (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4800 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204
United States

Alexandra Foulkes

U.S. District Court Western District of Oklahoma ( email )

Washington, DC
United States
8322966382 (Phone)
73162 (Fax)

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