Scientist analyzes DNA gel used in genetics, forensics, drug discovery, biology and medicine

Transplant Genomics: Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications

By Tamar Schiff

The appeal of precision medicine is of particular significance in transplantation. Treatment options are already integrally dependent on genetic factors – the donor-recipient match – and the demand for transplantable tissues far outstrips the available supply.

And the potential is only growing. Advances in genetic and genomic studies have identified an increasing number of novel biomarkers of potential use in transplant-related care. These include predictors of disease course, graft survival, response to immunosuppression, and likelihood of disease recurrence or other complications.

With wider availability of sequencing technologies and innovations in databanking, future clinical applications in transplant care may require ever-growing considerations of the significance of genetic variants, fair access to precision medicine therapeutics and participation in research, ethical approaches to data aggregation, and social determinants of health.

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Young male doctor in telehealth concept

Call for Abstracts: Looking Forward to a Post-Pandemic Landscape

By Carmel Shachar and Katie Kraschel

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted virtually every facet of day-to-day life.

This disruption has forced us to examine baseline choices and assumptions about how to deliver health care, participate in public discourse, provide access to education, and support the workforce. This “great revision” will continue in several iterative stages: an immediate response to the crisis, a modulation as the pandemic continues, and a resolution into a “new normal.”

The Petrie-Flom Center and the Solomon Center for Health Law Policy are interested in tracking when crisis settles into the new normal and articulating how public policy and law should respond to that evolution.

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Return to work graphic.

A Conversation on Safeguarding Employee Health During COVID-19

By Sarah Rispin Sedlak

On July 9th, as part of an ongoing “Coronavirus Conversations” series hosted by the Duke University Initiative for Science and Society, three experts will gather to discuss how the novel coronavirus spreads in the workplace, the steps employers can and should be taking to provide for employee safety in light of that, and how to do so while respecting employee concerns about personal safety, privacy and autonomy.

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Cover of the book "Transparency in health and health care in the US"

Order Now: “Transparency in Health and Health Care in the United States”

Transparency is a concept that is becoming increasingly lauded as a solution to a host of problems in the American health care system. Transparency initiatives show great promise, including empowering patients and other stakeholders to make more efficient decisions, improve resource allocation, and better regulate the health care industry.

Nevertheless, transparency is not a cure-all for the problems facing the modern health care system. The authors of this volume present a nuanced view of transparency, exploring ways in which transparency has succeeded and ways in which transparency initiatives have room for improvement. Read More

People in a yoga class posing together

Are Wellness-Based Insurance Products Really a Win For Everyone?

By Anya Prince 

Insurers have long been in the business of selling a variety of life insurance products to their customers, but a new trend has them promoting wellness and encouraging customers to make healthy lifestyle choices through benefits programs. John Hancock’s Vitality program, for example, offers customers a free Fitbit, savings on annual life insurance premiums, and other discounts and perks for meeting fitness goals.

Other insurers are joining in this wellness game, offering their own versions of incentives and access to wearables in exchange for fitness goals. At first blush, these programs are a classic win-win situation similar to that behind workplace wellness programs. Customers/employees get free wearables. Win! Customers/employees (ideally) live longer due to healthy lifestyle choices. Win! Life insurers/employers have customers that pay premiums for more years before they die and a claim is paid out. Win!  Read More

ancestry dna kit box

Gamete Donor Anonymity is a Myth: Q&A With Seema Mohapatra

By some accounts, 26 million people have undergone direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic or ancestry tests. While some of the results of these tests seem might seem obvious (I turned out to be half-Hungarian and half-Ashkenazi, to no one’s surprise), there have been a number of accounts in the media of test results that have been considerably more dramatic.

Some of the more shocking — and now shockingly common — scenarios are the ones in which a consumer finds out through a DTC test that they were donor-conceived, and that one or both of the parents who raised them are not their genetic relatives. Gamete donors, who often provide genetic material (eggs or sperm) with the promise of anonymity, are finding themselves the recipients of messages from genetic children they never intended to meet.

Gamete donors could argue that they have a right to privacy. But Prof. Seema Mohapatra suggests the idea of gamete donor privacy is no longer realistic, due to the state of genetic technology.

I sat down with Prof. Mohapatra to learn more about the many ethical and legal questions DTC genetic testing raises for donors, recipients, and clinics.

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image of a genetic screen

How Might we Approach Discussions on the Implications of Using Genetic Data from a Human Rights or Social Justice Perspective?

By Alicia Ely Yamin and Jonathan Chernoguz

To complement the Petrie-Flom Center’s annual conference this year, Consuming Genetics, the Global Health and Rights Project at Petrie-Flom (GHRP) convened a small meeting of feminists, students, and other activists. On May 16, Harvard University’s Global Health Education and Learning Incubator , which co-sponsors GHRP, hosted the forum in conjunction with Marcy Darnovsky and Katie Hasson of Center for Genetics and Society (CGS).

Focusing on “Gene Editing, Ethics, Rights and Health Equity Issues,” and in particular the irrevocability of germline gene editing, the meeting began with Marcy Darnovsky, Executive Director of CGS asking, “How might we begin the discussion from [the perspective of] human rights, feminism, equity, and social justice, rather than from the science and biotechnology?”

This question echoed some of those posed during the Consuming Genetics conference, for example, by Jonathan Kahn in interrogating the equivocation of social diversity and empirical diversity in genomic research.  Read More

I. Glenn Cohen at the podium

WATCH: I. Glenn Cohen on ‘The Second Reproductive Revolution’

Dean John F. Manning honored Prof. I. Glenn Cohen, faculty director of the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School, on the occasion of his appointment as the James A. Attwood and Leslie Williams professor of law.

Cohen, who is one of the world’s leading experts on the intersection of bioethics and the law, delivered a talk titled “The Second Reproductive Revolution,” focusing on how technology is changing reproduction from gene editing, to uterus transplants, to embryos derived from our skin. Read More

Dna test infographic. Genome sequence map, chromosome architecture and genetic sequencing chart abstract data. Molecule structure genetic test.

Ethnic Identity and Genomics Research: Toward Creating Culturally Sensitive Policies and Practices

By Erin Turbitt and Megan C Roberts

Genomic discoveries are rapidly entering healthcare, further propelled by large nationally funded initiatives such as the “All of Us” program. However, minority groups risk not benefiting from these discoveries to the same degree as individuals of European descent. This is because most genomics research involves European descended individuals and genomic databases largely consist of data from these studies. Read More

Call for Proposals: Addressing the Health Care Needs of Justice-Involved Populations

The Beazley Institute for Health Law and Policy at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and Annals of Health Law & Life Sciences invite original submissions for presentations at our Thirteenth Annual Health Law Symposium: Addressing the Health Care Needs of Justice-Involved Populations. The Symposium will take place at Loyola University Chicago School of Law on Friday, November 15, 2019 beginning at 9:00am.

The Symposium will explore legal barriers that justice-involved populations face in accessing health care, and address how those barriers can be alleviated. “Justice-involved populations” generally refers to individuals who are incarcerated in prisons, jails, immigrant detention centers, juvenile detention centers, on probation, or individuals who are otherwise involved with the U.S. justice system. Read More