Sunday, April 12, 2009

Suing Your Parents' Genes

It is said that people go into psychology to understand themselves...well, one of my main reasons why I went into genetics was to prove that I was not related to my family. That, of course, didn't happen - the Adams family is a more functional collection of misfits than my assortment of relatives, but now I may have a second option. Maybe I can sue my parents for the genetic material that they gave me.

Does it sound like I just took a break from reality? Maybe...but in today's world anything may be possible. A recent case in New York State may have set the stage for me to actually proceed with my lawsuit.

In this case, a law team representing a young girl has successfully convinced a judge to hear a case against Idant Laboratories - a sperm bank. The team alleges that the sperm bank provided the girl with cells from a donor that contained an allele for fragile-x syndrome, a genetic cause of mental retardation.

This case basically establishes that gametes, and the genetic information that they contain, may be considered to be a commodity, and are suing the labs on the basis of a "breach of the express warranty of merchantability". While the details of this case are very interesting, namely how several different labs differed in their results in screening for fragile-X syndrome, and how the lab is alleged for not discovering that the donor displayed symptoms of fragile-X. But even more intriguing is the fact that sperm is now a commodity. That is right, sperm may be now covered by a warranty, just like a TV or iPod.

Which leads me back to my parents. You may think that may approach to using the parents is just a get-rich scheme, but actually it may be the perfect solution for the high-cost of medical treatment. Luckily for me, as least so far, my parents did not give me anything by a colorful childhood and a decent dose of lunacy. I have suffered from anxiety-related issues my entire life, and given the pattern of inheritance in the male members of my family, I am sure that I can trace this trait directly back down my paternal line. But lets just say that I had inherited some sort of more-damaging, and costly genetic defect - maybe even fragile-X syndrome. Then, based on what this case may be proposing - I could sue my parents, and more important their insurance companies, for providing a defective product. In theory, if I could get DNA samples, I could go back multiple generations (we have plenty of loonies in our closet), and possible recoup the cost of my medical treatments. My children could then sue me, etc., etc.

In other words, while I do support the efforts of the family of this young lady to provide for their daughter and prevent future people from suffering from neglect - the courts need to be very careful with what precedent that they set on this one. One wrong turn and the insurance agencies will insist that everyone undergo genetic screening - and that their insurance rates be based on the results of that screening. I am fairly sure, especially if you have a family like mine, that you don't want people peeing into that closet!