Skip to main content

Course Description

Genetics and Medicine: Ethical, Legal and Social Issues is designed to immerse students in the emerging ethical, legal, and social issues facing the use and practice of genetics in medicine. This is a semester-long, weekly course that meets for 13, two-hour sessions.  The course offers a mix of didactic content, case studies, and class discussion.   This course is intended for students with graduate standing and is targeted toward students who have at least some background in human genetics.  This course is mandatory for trainees in the Genomic Medicine T32 training program; students in other graduate degree programs are welcome to participate.

Course Information

Course number:  HGEN 6700* / LAW 7906 / MD ID 7251

*HGEN 6700 is cross-listed with MDCRC 6370, meaning that the one course can effectively substitute for the other as far as degree or program requirements. HGEN 6700 meets with LAW 7906 and MD ID 7251.

Semester: Check with course director
Day & Time: Check with course director
Room: Check with course director
Prerequisites: None 

Instructor: Jorge Contreras, JD
Contact Information: / 801-587-5471
Office Location: College of Law, Room 5247 (by appointment only)

Registration Questions. Please contact Amy J. Hawkins, PhD (co-instructor) for registration assistance and questions.

Nondiscrimination & Disability Accommodation Statement. The University of Utah does not exclude, deny benefits to or otherwise discriminate against any person in admission to or participation in its programs and activities. Reasonable accommodations will be provided to qualified individuals with disabilities upon request, with reasonable notice. Requests for accommodations or inquiries or complaints about University nondiscrimination and disability access policies may be directed to the Director, OEO./AA, Title IX/Section 504/ADA Coordinator, 201 S Presidents Circle, RM 135, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, 801-581-8365 (Voice/TTY), 801-585-5746 (Fax).

Course Goals

At the successful completion of this course, students will be expected to:

  1. Identify, understand and engage with the fundamental ethical, legal, and social issues pertinent to human participation to the practice of genetics in medicine
  2. Discuss and understand case studies raising ethical, legal and social issues pertaining to the use of genetics in medicine
  3. Utilize their knowledge to analyze scenarios that may arise in this field in the future

Course Evaluation

Grading. Students in HGEN 6700 and LAW 7906 will receive a letter grade at the end of the semester. MD ID 7251 students will receive a pass or fail at the end of the semester. This grade will be based on the following:

  • Class Discussion: 15%

  • Written Assignments: 85% (21.25% per assignment)

Teaching and Learning Methods. This course will be taught using a combination of didactic lectures by experts in the field and interactive class discussion. Relevant reading materials selected from academic and scientific literature will be assigned in advance of each class. Students will be expected to read all assigned materials and prepare written commentary as described below. 

Sample Syllabus

Session 1 Introduction to Bioethics and Law (Contreras)
Session 2 Genetic Screening - Prenatal, Newborn and Carrier Status: Ethical Considerations (Botkin)
Session 3 Federal Regulation of Genetics Tests and Therapies (Stilling)
Session 4 Using the Population Database in Genetics Research (Smith)
Session 5 Patenting Genetic Information and Human Genes (Contreras)
Session 6 The use of DNA in Criminal Proceedings (Tokson and Guiora)
Session 7 The National Precision Medicine Initiative and Other Large Scale Genome Sequencing Initiatives (Jorde)
  Fall Break - No Class
Session 8 Liability for Genetic Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis (Brown)
Session 9 Pharmaceutical Industry and Genomic Medicine (Dere)
Session 10 Communicating Genetic and Genomic Information to the Public (Rauscher)
Session 11 Individuals with Disabilities in Genomic Medicine and Research (Francis)
Session 12 Direct-to-Consumer Genomics (Chahine)
Session 13 Regulating the Unregulated: Gene Editing, Stem Cell Therapy and Beyond (Contreras)


Note: This syllabus is meant to serve as an outline and guide for our course. Please note that it may be modified with reasonable notice to you. The instructors may also modify the Course Schedule to accommodate the needs of the class. Any changes will be announced in class and posted on Canvas under Announcements.