The judge overseeing the Prince estate case has authorized genetic testing on a sample of his blood in case it's necessary to determine who's entitled to shares of the estate. Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide on Friday granted a request by the special administrator overseeing the estate, Bremer Trust, to hire DNA Diagnostics Center to perform the genetic testing on a blood sample now held by the medical examiner's office that conducted the autopsy on Prince. Prince died April 21 at his home in suburban Minneapolis. The cause remains under investigation. In his order, the judge says he's "recognizing that parentage issues might arise" in the administration of Prince's estate.
Testing companies make it easy to send in a DNA sample (usually saliva) and get back genetic glimpses of where a person's ancestors may have come from; possible health risks; or interesting connections between someone's DNA and quirks like personal preferences for wine or the likelihood of having a unibrow (and its thickness). Lately, however, consumer genetic testing has come under greater scrutiny. Consumers are sometimes surprised by the many ways genetic information can be used. Earlier this year, police in California disclosed they tracked down a suspect in a decades-old string of serial murders with help from the genetic information of a distant relative, which was available in a public database. Investigators have applied similar methods to solve other old criminal cases.
After years of back and forth, the Federal Drug Administration granted market authorization to the at-home genetic DNA test 23andMe. The test 23andMe will be allowed to sell directly to consumers include genetic test to determine whether or not consumers have a predisposition to genetic diseases. The "Personal Genome Service Genetic Health Risk" tests the FDA approved include tests for Parkinson's disease, Celiac disease and late-onset Alzheimer's among others. The company was warned via formal written letter from the FDA advising that the company needed marketing clearance and approval from the administration before going forward with direct-to-consumer marketing. The at-home test is easily conducted with a saliva collection kit that users then mail back to a lab.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have undertaken a U.S. wide analysis and found that differing types of privacy laws within U.S. states produce markedly different effects on the willingness of patients to have genetic testing done. In turn, a concern with patients is whether insurance companies are allowed to access the digital data and the extent to which this will affect insurance costs. The type of genetic testing that the research covers is that which gives an indication of an individual's generalized risk of acquiring diseases and illnesses. Insurance companies can use such data to predict how much support someone may need in later life and even to gather an indication of an individual's life expectancy. The findings are understandable: state policies that focus on protecting the privacy of individuals in relation to genetic testing, and which require patient consent before data is disclosed, lead to a higher probability that a patient will submit to genetic testing.