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Wielding the implement of law: Distilling new rights and responsibilities in the age of the 'new genetics'

Laurie, G

Health, Risk & Society   1 (3) 333-341

January 1999   (Version of record first published November 2007)

The law has, to date, been slow to respond to advances in genetics, but in many ways this may be propitious. History teaches us that there is an ever-present risk that the law will be used merely to embody knee-jerk reactions to new developments in medicine and science, frequently to the detriment of all interested parties. Adequate and appropriate legal responses to genetic research can only come once a full debate on the problems to be addressed has taken place, and when society as a whole is appraised of the options at hand. This article offers an overview of the problems which are thrown up for the law by 'new genetics', including the problem of reconciling competing claims to genetic information from family members, insurers and employers, as well as the dilemma of determining how to regulate the potential range of uses of new genetic knowledge. The article offers some views on how we might use the law to proceed sensibly and productively in the future.