The blog of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

A positive use of genetic data: Justice

After a morning that dealt in large part with privacy concerns in the use of genetic data, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues heard another side of the issue: The data can lead to justice.

Melissa Mourges shows the DNA profile of a suspect.

Melissa Mourges, Assistant District Attorney and Chief of the Forensic Sciences/Cold Cases Unit in the New York County District Attorney’s office, described how DNA data has been invaluable.

With DNA profiles, Mourges said, “we can get cold hits matching a suspect to a crime. … For instance, we can learn a rape from California and a rape in Oklahoma are done by the same guy.”

She also said that authorities have kept tight restrictions on how the data has been used. Her comments followed other participants who raised questions about whether authorities could protect the privacy of an individual’s genomic sequencing.

Mourges said the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which are forensic databases maintained by all 50 states and the FBI, keeps DNA profiles of all known offenders. She said the system doesn’t allow for identification of a suspect until there’s a match in a case.

“We are never moving back with this technology,” she said, referring to law enforcement’s use of DNA data. “We have evidence who proves who done it, and not beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond all doubt.”

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1 Comment to A positive use of genetic data: Justice

  1. March 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    A Very informative blog. At last a government that has disclosure. This is a really hard one to balance. On one hand you have the absolute need to help law enforcement solve crimes. On the other hand the privacy issues are huge. I will be sitting on my chair waiting to see how this one pans out.

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This is a space for the members and staff of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to communicate with the public about the work of the commission and to discuss important issues in bioethics.

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