Genetic privacy and the law: an end to genetics exceptionalism.

L. O. Gostin, J. G. Hodge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


While the proliferation of human genetic information promises to achieve many public benefits, the acquisition, use, retention, and disclosure of genetic data threatens individual liberties. States (and to a lesser degree, the federal government) have responded to the anticipated and actual threats of privacy invasion and discrimination by enacting several types of genetic-specific legislation. These laws emphasize the differences between genetic information and other health information. By articulating these differences, governments afford genetic data an "exceptional" status. The authors argue that genetic exceptionalism is flawed for two reasons: (1) strict protections of autonomy, privacy, and equal treatment of persons with genetic conditions threaten the accomplishment of public goods; and (2) there is no clear demarcation separating genetic data from other health data; other health data deserve protections in a national health information infrastructure. The authors present ideas for individual privacy protections that balance the societal need for genetic information and the claims for privacy by individuals and families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-58
Number of pages38
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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