Genetics and the Law

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Spring 2014 Seminar
Meets: Th 5:00pm - 7:00pm in WCC Room 3015
2 classroom credits

Genetic technologies have advanced tremendously and are becoming commonplace; personal genome sequencing is getting cheaper and easier, and genetic analyses are increasingly used by public and private actors. These advances raise important issues for law and policy, for areas as diverse as family law, criminal law, torts, intellectual property, and of course health law. This seminar will consider the law and policy implications of advances in genetics and the spread of genetic technology. Likely topics include:

  • Basics of genetics;
  • Genetic screening of fetuses, newborns, children and adults;
  • Liability for failure to detect or warn about genetic disorders;
  • Links between genetics, criminal responsibility, and punishment;
  • Discrimination on the basis of genetic traits;
  • Implications of genetics for family law;
  • Public health implications of whole-genome sequencing; and
  • Limits on genetic research and genetic manipulation of humans
  • No prior of knowledge of genetics is assumed. Students will be responsible for preparing weekly discussion questions. Readings will include cases, scholarly articles, and other materials. Grading will be based on class participation and written work. Students can choose to write either multiple reading responses or a single final paper.

    Prerequisite: Admission to this seminar is by permission of the instructor. Although no formal scientific background is required, a mixture of backgrounds will facilitate discussion of some technically complex areas. To apply, please send a CV and a one-paragraph statement of your interest in the course and any relevant experience to Please send all applications in for this seminar by Monday, September 30th. We will notify those enrolled by Friday, October 11th. Late applications may be accepted at the discretion of the instructor.