Direct-to-consumer personalized genomic medicine has recently grown into a small industry that sells mail-order DNA sample kits and then provides disease risk assessments, typically based upon results from genome-trait association studies. The companies selling these services have been largely exempted from FDA regulation in the United States. Testing kit companies and their supporters have defended the industry's unregulated status using two arguments. First, defenders have argued that mere absence of harm is all that must be proved for mail-order tests to be acceptable. Second, defenders of mail-order testing have argued that there is an individual right to the tests' information. This article rebuts these arguments. The article demonstrates that the direct-to-consumer market has resulted in the sidelining of clinical utility (medical value to patients), leading to the development of certain mail-order tests that do not promote customers' interests and to defenders' downplaying of a potentially damaging empirical study of mail-order genomic testing's effects on consumers. The article also shows that the notion of an individual right to these tests rests on a flawed reading of the key service provided by mail-order companies, which is the provision of medical interpretations, not simply genetic information. Absent these two justifications, there is no reason to exempt direct-to-consumer personalized genomic medicine from stringent federal oversight.


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pp. 250-265
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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