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November 17, 1993

Privacy Rules for DNA Databanks: Protecting Coded 'Future Diaries'

Author Affiliations

From the Health Law Department, Boston (Mass) University Schools of Medicine and Public Health.

JAMA. 1993;270(19):2346-2350. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510190102034

In privacy terms, genetic information is like medical information. But the information contained in the DNA molecule itself is more sensitive because it contains an individual's probabilistic "future diary," is written in a code that has only partially been broken, and contains information about an individual's parents, siblings, and children. Current rules for protecting the privacy of medical information cannot protect either genetic information or identifiable DNA samples stored in DNA databanks. A review of the legal and public policy rationales for protecting genetic privacy suggests that specific enforceable privacy rules for DNA databanks are needed. Four preliminary rules are proposed to govern the creation of DNA databanks, the collection of DNA samples for storage, limits on the use of information derived from the samples, and continuing obligations to those whose DNA samples are in the databanks.

(JAMA. 1993;270:2346-2350)