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Direct to consumer genetic testing and the libertarian right to test
  1. Wendy Elizabeth Bonython,
  2. Bruce Baer Arnold
  1. School of Law and Justice , Faculty of Business Government and Law, University of Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Wendy Elizabeth Bonython, School of Law and Justice, Faculty of Business Government and Law, Locked Bag 1, University of Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia; wendy.bonython{at}


Loi recently proposed a libertarian right to direct to consumer genetic testing (DTCGT)— independent of autonomy or utility—reflecting Cohen’s work on self-ownership and Hohfeld’s model of jural relations. Cohen’s model of libertarianism dealt principally with self-ownership of the physical body. Although Loi adequately accounts for the physical properties of DNA, DNA is also an informational substrate, highly conserved within families. Information about the genome of relatives of the person undergoing testing may be extrapolated without requiring direct engagement with their personal physical copy of the genome, triggering rights and interests of relatives that may differ from the rights and interests of others, that is, individual consumers, testing providers and regulators. Loi argued that regulatory interference with exercise of the right required justification, whereas prima facie exercise of the right did not. Justification of regulatory interference could include ‘conflict with other people’s rights’, ‘aggressive’ use of the genome and ‘harming others’. Harms potentially experienced by relatives as a result of the individual’s exercise of a right to test include breach of genetic privacy, violation of their right to determine when, and if, they undertake genetic testing and discrimination. Such harms may justify regulatory intervention, in the event they are recognised; motives driving ‘aggressive’ use of the genome may also be relevant. Each of the above criteria requires clarification, as potential redundancies and tensions exist between them, with different implications affecting different groups of rights holders.

  • confidentiality/privacy
  • genetic screening/testing
  • genetic information
  • legal philosophy
  • predictive genetic testing

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  • WEB and BBA contributed equally.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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