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Bioethics for Journalists
Law Enforcement and Genetic Data: A Discussion for Journalists

Law Enforcement and Genetic Data: A Discussion for Journalists • October 26, 2021

This is the second in a series "Genomics in Society: New Developments, New Questions: Discussions with Journalists" hosted by Hastings Center, in partnership with the Center for ELSI Resources & Analysis (CERA) of four online discussions to inform journalists about the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of new research in genomics; discuss story ideas on genomics and its ELSI issues; and connect journalists and ELSI experts and resources. 

DNA has been a powerful crime-solving tool for decades, but law enforcement’s ability to harness it for investigative purposes has grown immensely in recent years. This is due primarily to the massive amount of genetic data now housed in both government-run and private databases, as well as the emergence of new techniques to exploit these vast resources. DTC genetic testing expands the power of forensic searches. Law enforcement access to personal or family genetic information raises ethical concerns. Yet, neither the collection of genetic samples nor their analysis or use by law enforcement has been subject to significant regulation in the United States. What limits, if any, should be placed on law enforcement’s access to DNA data from DTC companies, health care providers, and researchers?

  • Moderator: Sarah Zhang, staff writer, The Atlantic, covering science.
  • Panelist: Ellen Wright Clayton, an internationally recognized leader in the field of law and genomics who holds appointments in Vanderbilt University’s medical school and law school, as well as the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society. She is a Hastings Center fellow.
  • Panelist: CeCe Moore, chief genetic genealogist for Parabon Nanolabs, heading the Genetic Genealogy Services for law enforcement unit.

Please see links to the transcript and associated resources for this talk in the upper right corner of the page.

Related events (information and registration will be sent out before the event- please email [email protected] with any questions)

Beginning in 2021, The Hastings Center will offer an annual “bioethics for journalists” discussion series. It is supported by the Callahan Public Programs, named in honor of Daniel Callahan, co-founder of The Hastings Center. Each year, Hastings will join forces with a prominent partner to bring the most cutting-edge ethical issues in science and health to journalists.


Law Enforcement
Genetic Data Sharing and Management

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