Free DNA tests offered to 10,000 Floridians

Free DNA tests offered to 10,000 Floridians as hospital group controversially partners with a private genetics company

  • AdventHealth in Orlando, Florida, is offering free DNA tests for an inherited heart condition to 10,000 residents
  • Those who test positive will get a second blood test free of charge and be connected with a cardiologist
  • The genetics company said it doesn’t sell information but it may be provided to law enforcement

A hospital group has partnered with a private genetics company and is now offering free DNA tests to 10,000 Floridians.

Researchers at AdventHealth in Orlando said the DNA test screens for an inherited heart condition that can lead to high cholesterol and heart attacks if left untreated. 

Participants who screen positive will get a second blood test to confirm the diagnosis, get to talk with a genetic counselor at no charge and be put in touch with a cardiologist.

But ethicists warn that participants need to be aware their data may be used for purposes other than their personal health care.

AdventHealth in Orlando, Florida, has partnered with a genetics company called Helix to offer free DNA tests for an inherited heart condition that can lead to heart attacks to 10,000 residents (file image)

A similar program in Nevada involving the same genomics company, Helix, has enrolled 30,000 participants. 

AdventHealth hopes to eventually scale up the project across its health system, which encompasses 46 hospital campuses in nine states. 

The group says data from the program, called ‘WholeMe’, also will be used for other research purposes as the health system grows its newly minted genomics program. 

AdventHealth said researchers will seek additional consent if they want the data for additional studies.  

Additionally, the project is being overseen by an institutional review board to ensure privacy measures are in place and that the gathered data is protected by HIPAA privacy safeguards.

On its website, Helix said it doesn’t sell participants’ information for any reason. 

But the company did say it evaluates requests by law enforcement and other legal requests for data on a case-by-case basis. 

Detectives in a growing number of high-profile cases have identified suspects by entering crime-scene DNA profiles into databases that became popular as a way for people to document their family trees.

This is how the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department linked 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo Jr to some of the rapes and murders committed by the Golden State Killer in the 1970s and 1980s.

Past studies of people who got doctor-ordered DNA test results about disease risks have been mixed.

Several show that DNA information produced no significant effect on participants’ diet, physical activity, drinking alcohol or quitting smoking.

And earlier this month, The Guardian reported that several women were told they had gene mutations linked to breast and ovarian cancer due faulty home genetic test results.  

Researchers hope the follow-up contact will steer participants toward healthier choices.

‘It’s not providing them the results, and they’re then on their own,’ Dr Wes Walker, associate chief medical information officer at AdventHealth. ‘It really becomes part of their overall care.’

The news come as Florida state officials warn residents to beware of scammers  offering free DNA tests in exchange for sensitive information, reported WJCT.

 Callers have allegedly pretended to be from Medicare and ask victims for their Medicare number and Social Security numbers.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis warned that government programs do not call people at random and recommended letting calls from unrecognized numbers go to voicemail