Questions around legality, protecting privacy and ensuring quality of data in DNA sequencing all need answering, a symposium recently held at the University of Minnesota has announced. LawSeq, a $2 million project looking to solve the issue of privacy and legality in sequencing, is exploring how to ensure the legal world catches up with current science.

Legal liability was cited as a major concern at the symposium. With technology advancing faster than the ability to interpret genetic results, such as risk of cancer or heart attack from one mutation, fallbacks against legal action, such as providing a rigorous standard of care, are becoming “fuzzy”.

Susan Wolf, professor of law, medicine and public policy and a leader of LaqSeq, warned that legal action would increase over what patients saw as mistakes or failures to keep them updated with new information.

She suggested that new laws must be written by agencies such as the FDA, with LawSeq offering guidance. Gary Marchant, a law professor at Arizona State University, gave support to recontacting patients in certain circumstances, should information change or be updated. He said that physicians should be held “legally responsible for taking reasonable steps” to recontact actively treated patients if updated information has been received.

Wolf, looking at how the legal system should consider medical standards when guiding genomics law, looked at how courts had previously handled standard of care in medical malpractice suits relating to genomics. She found that most of the 30 judicial opinions observed from 2001 to 2016 failed to refer to any scientific publication or professional document when discussing standards of care. She said it suggested a disconnect between judges and the life sciences which was leaving healthcare professionals vulnerable to legal action.