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Legal Issues

Ownership Of Tissues, Criminal Law, Patenting Issues

The question of who owns tissues, DNA, and other biological materials raises numerous legal questions. One concern is that genetic information derived from someone's DNA sequences could be used to deny insurance coverage to people whose genes indicate that they have a disease or that they are at risk of contracting one.

Another concern is that the profits made by hospitals and transplant centers for transplantation procedures are unfair, as tissue donors and their families are typically not compensated, despite the fact that these donors often pay for the operations that provide the materials. There is a question of who should profit from such materials: those from whom the materials were originally derived or those who use the materials to treat other patients or conduct research.

In the criminal setting, genetic testing provides the opportunity to identify criminals. Through storage of DNA and DNA analysis data, old, unsolved cases can sometimes be resolved. DNA analysis is also useful for exonerating wrongly accused individuals, including those who have served significant jail time for crimes they did not commit. However, there is concern regarding the potential abuses of DNA data stored by law enforcement agencies. There is also concern that stored genetic material will be used to clone people. Additional concerns center on the safety and risks of genetically modified foods.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaGenetics in Medicine - Part 3