A couple of weeks ago, I attended a public discussion about the future of genomics at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. My favorite part of the evening was when Paul Billings, chief medical officer at Life Technologies, pulled out of his pocket his company’s latest genome sequencer: a square chip, about the size of a quarter. Next year, he said, researchers will be decoding whole genomes with this device for about $1,000 each.
For most researchers, the rise of whole-genome sequencing is old news, and so are its potential pitfalls. The sheer volume of data will be difficult to store and, at least for a while, impossible to interpret. Then there are those frightening scenarios of how your genetic information might be used against you that routinely make it into headlines and Hollywood blockbusters.
But one aspect that is rarely discussed is that the rise of whole-genome sequencing may well result in a deluge of lawsuits against doctors. That’s the sobering prediction by two lawyers in an essay published 25 November in the online magazine Slate.
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