A Family Consents to a Medical Gift, 62 Years Later

Should researchers control the use of everyone’s genomes?

It’s time for a national debate about when and how our genetic information should be used.  The healthcare industry and government are planning that our genomes will soon be part of our electronic health records, so that sensitive data can be used without patient consent. The cost of sequencing a genome will soon drop below $1,000.

But the debate about who should control the use of this unique, personal information must be informed by knowing/tracking the hidden flows of genetic data.

The next phase of theDataMap should track the use, sale, and disclosure of genetic information: from hospitals, labs, and genomic sequencing companies to private biobanks, etc, etc.

We cannot weigh risks vs. benefits of open access to genetic data when the risks are unknown.

The Ethics of Publishing Genomes: Can Today’s Family Members Give Consent for the Next Generation?

To view the full article by Andrea Peterson in ThinkProgress, please visit: The Ethics of Publishing Genomes: Can Today’s Family Members Give Consent for the Next Generation?

In the early 1950′s, doctors at Johns Hopkins took the cells from Henrietta Lacks’ tumor and, without her consent, have used them for years for research. Earlier in March, the entire genome of Henrietta Lacks was published with neither the knowledge nor consent of her surviving family. This privacy breach has “started a new chapter in that tale about the complex relationship between researchers and the privacy of genetic information.”

Some key quotes from Dr. William Pewen, Assistant Professor of Public Health and Family Medicine at Marshall University, and a former top health care adviser to the now retired Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME):

  • -“The release of Henrietta Lack’s genome illustrates the fact that genetic information isn’t an individual matter — it impacts family members as well. This underscores the need to ensure the rights of individuals and preserve the confidentiality of research data. Once patient privacy is lost, problems are simply compounded. Just how can today’s family members give consent for the next generation?”
  • -“[i]n an age of technology advances and ‘Big Data’ analytics, it’s clear that medical data can be used in countless detrimental ways. That will simply be fostered if we allow ethics and human rights to be undermined by expediency.”

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the Sequel

This is an amazing article written by Rebekah Skloot, author of ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’, demanding consent and trust.

Rebecca is right—-the only way Americans will trust researchers is when they are treated with respect and their rights of consent for use of genomes and genetic information is restored.

The public does not yet realize that they have no control over ALL sensitive health information in electronic systems. We have NO idea how many hundreds of data mining and research corporations are collecting and using our blood and body parts. We ALSO have no control over our sensitive health information in electronic systems violating hundreds of years of privacy rights.

This week the many stories about CVS showed employers can force employees to take blood tests, health screenings, and be forced into “wellness” programs–all of which REQUIRE collection of sensitive health information—which employees cannot control.

We have NO map of who collects and uses personal health data—Henrietta Lacks family was NEVER asked for consent to use her genome.

Contribute to build a map to track the thousands of hidden users of health data at: www.localhost:8888/pprold

Attend or watch the 3rd International summit on the Future of Health Privacy (free). Register at: www.healthprivacysummit.org