Thursday, September 23, 2021
Parental Access to Children’s Raw Genomic Data in Canada: Legal Rights and Professional Responsibility
Michael J.S. Beauvais (McGill University), Adrian Thorogood (Universite du Luxembourg), Michael Szego (University of Toronto), Karine Sénécal (McGill University), Ma'n H. Zawati (McGill University), Bartha Maria Knoppers, Parental Access to Children’s Raw Genomic Data in Canada: Legal Rights and Professional Responsibility, Frontiers in Genetics (2021):
Children with rare and common diseases now undergo whole genome sequencing (WGS) in clinical and research contexts. Parents sometimes request access to their child’s raw genomic data, to pursue their own analyses or for onward sharing with health professionals and researchers. These requests raise legal, ethical, and practical issues for professionals and parents alike. The advent of widespread WGS in pediatrics occurs in a context where privacy and data protection law remains focused on giving individuals control-oriented rights with respect to their personal information. Acting in their child’s stead and in their best interests, parents are generally the ones who will be exercising these informational rights on behalf of the child. In this paper, we map the contours of parental authority to access their child’s raw genomic data. We consider three use cases: hospital-based researchers, healthcare professionals acting in a clinical-diagnostic capacity, and “pure” academic researchers at a public institution. Our research seeks to answer two principal questions: Do parents have a right of access to their child's raw WGS data? If so, what are the limits of this right? Primarily focused on the laws of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, with a secondary focus on Canada’s three other most populous provinces (Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta) and the European Union, our principal findings include (1) parents have a general right of access to information about their children, but that the access right is more capacious in the clinical context than in the research context; (2) the right of access extends to personal data in raw form; (3) a consideration of the best interests of the child may materially limit the legal rights of parents to access data about their child; (4) the ability to exercise rights of access are transferred from parents to children when they gain decision-making capacity in both the clinical and research contexts, but with more nuance in the former. We conclude by crafting recommendations for healthcare professionals in the clinical and research contexts when faced with a parental request for a child’s raw genomic data.