New DNA Test Could Speed Up Asbestos Cases

A new DNA test that can determine whether an individual’s health has been affected by exposure to chemicals has been touted as a way to speed up civil cases by quickly confirming or denying a plaintiff’s exposure.

“The test involves taking DNA samples from a healthy person and then exposing it to the chemical in question to see which genes are affected. This is then used as a blueprint against which a claimant DNA can be compared,” says an article in the British newspaper, The Independent.

The new technique is expected to be used in civil cases, drastically reducing the time it takes to settle cases and grant compensation to those who have been exposed to toxins such as asbestos, benzene, or coal dust. These cases often drag on for months or even years as the burden of proof has often been difficult.

The scientist who helped to develop the test, Dr. Bruce Gillis of the Illinois College of Medicine, told the media that the test would allow some people to win cases they might have otherwise lost. On the other hand, he added, “others would find themselves with no case” because their diseases were not caused by any chemicals to which they were exposed on-the-job or elsewhere.

Dr. Gillis said civil courts in California have already heard more than 20 cases that used evidence from the technique. The test has swayed cases in both directions, he added, resulting in victories for both plaintiffs and defendants.

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