Advances in genetic technologies over the last two decades have created possibilities for the identification and manipulation of human traits that have never existed before. Along with this explosion in knowledge have come new questions of law and policy that raise profound questions for our society. These issues include the patentability of genes and other biological materials, liability for failures to detect or warn of genetic disorders, challenges to traditional rules on paternity, proposed reconceptualizations of criminal responsibility and justifications for punishment, the legitimacy of alterations in the human germ line, and possibilities of discrimination on the basis of latent traits.
This seminar will consider the implications of advances in genetics for law and policy. It will include an overview of genetics and genetic technologies, with no assumptions made that students will be familiar with these areas. Regulation of genetic research and the application of research findings will be examined, including the application of genetic screening to fetuses, newborns, children, and adults. This will be followed by explorations of some of the implications of genetic data for tort law, family law, criminal law, privacy law, and disability (including discrimination) law.
Students will be asked to consider the extent to which science does and should drive law and policy, and when other values than science (e.g., fairness, distributive justice, respect for personhood) should take precedence. The potential for society to establish limits on interventions that science makes possible will be considered.