Ethics and Potential Opportunities and Risks of Corporate Uses of Socioeconomic Polygenic Risk Scores

12 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2024

See all articles by Michelle N. Meyer

Michelle N. Meyer

Geisinger Health System - Bioethics Research

Nicholas W. Papageorge

Johns Hopkins University Department of Economics

Erik Parens

The Hastings Center

Alan Regenberg

Johns Hopkins University - Berman Institute of Bioethics

Jeremy Sugarman

Johns Hopkins University

Kevin Thom

University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

Date Written: November 29, 2023

Abstract

As polygenic indexes become increasingly available and more predictive, complex questions about their appropriate use arise. Virtually unstudied are the incentives that firms—profit- maximizing entities that produce goods and services—face regarding the acquisition and use of genetic information. Of significant concern is that the incentives for firms to use PGIs exist within a legal and policy landscape that is inadequate to meet the associated challenges. Since we may be quite close to (or already in) a world in which firms seek to pay for individuals’ genetic information, the associated ethical and legal issues are in urgent need of attention. Here, we begin a conversation about the potential risks and benefits of firms’ uses of PGIs. We do so in two ways. First, we offer a very simple model, rooted in economic theory, of a profit-maximizing firm that can gain information about a single consumer’s genome. We use the model to show that, depending on the specific economic environment faced by the firm, it would be willing to pay for noisy genetic measures, even if they allow for only a small reduction in uncertainty. Second, we describe two plausible scenarios in which different kinds of firms (insurance and financial services) could conceivably use PGIs to maximize profits, but which also entail knotty ethical and policy issues. It is important to problematize these issues now in order to emphasize the need for consideration of associated ethical, legal, and policy responses.

Keywords: Genomics, Firms

Suggested Citation

Meyer, Michelle N. and Papageorge, Nicholas W. and Parens, Erik and Regenberg, Alan and Sugarman, Jeremy and Thom, Kevin, Ethics and Potential Opportunities and Risks of Corporate Uses of Socioeconomic Polygenic Risk Scores (November 29, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4648651 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4648651

Michelle N. Meyer

Geisinger Health System - Bioethics Research ( email )

100 North Academy Ave.
Danville, PA 17822-4910
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.michellenmeyer.com

Nicholas W. Papageorge (Contact Author)

Johns Hopkins University Department of Economics ( email )

3400 Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218-2685
United States

Erik Parens

The Hastings Center ( email )

Garrison, NY 10524
United States

Alan Regenberg

Johns Hopkins University - Berman Institute of Bioethics ( email )

1809 Ashland Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21205
United States

Jeremy Sugarman

Johns Hopkins University ( email )

Baltimore, MD 20036-1984
United States

Kevin Thom

University of Wisconsin Milwaukee ( email )

2442 E. Kenwood Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53201-0729
United States

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