Genetic Test Mix-Ups Fuel Regulation Debate
Professor Hank Greeley is quoted in reaction to 23andMe’s laboratory mix-up of DNA results:
One woman panicked when the genetic test she had ordered over the Internet concluded that her son was carrying a life-threatening disorder and, even more disturbing, that he was not -- genetically -- her son. Another, who always thought she was white, was flabbergasted to find her genes were mostly of African origin. A third woman's result was still more stunning: She was a man, it said.
"I thought, 'Oh my God. Am I really a man?' " said Denise Weinrich, 48, of St. Peters, Mo. "I thought, 'What's the matter with me? I'm not who I thought I was. How am I going to tell my children?' DNA doesn't lie."
DNA does not lie, but its truth is often elusive. Weinrich was one of 87 people who received incorrect results last month because of a laboratory mix-up involving customers of 23andMe, a testing company backed in part by Google. The Mountain View, Calif., testing company says it regrets the incident and noted that it spotted the mistakes quickly, notified the clients and has taken steps to prevent future errors.
"That's my nightmare scenario," said Hank Greely, director of Stanford University's Center for Law and the Biosciences. Even when the results are accurate, public perceptions often exaggerate the current power of genetic testing, many experts say.