Updated on 05.02.13

The examination of the genetic characteristics of an individual for medical purposes aims to either confirm or refute the diagnosis of a genetic disease in a person exhibiting the symptoms, or, in the case of an asymptomatic person, looks for the characteristics of one or more genes liable ultimately to result in the development of a disease in the person, or their descendents. It is therefore possible only under individualised medical supervision.
The consent of the person is obtained in writing after he or she has been given prior information, comprising in particular an indication of the scope of the examination.

Carrying out an examination of the genetic characteristics of a person for purposes other than medical or scientific research, without having obtained the person’s prior consent, or making use of information collected about a person for purposes other than medical or scientific research, are criminal offences.

In areas of civil and criminal law, identification may only be sought in the context of legal action.

The penal code punishes attempts to identify a person by genetic fingerprinting, except in cases provided by the law, with a year of prison and a €15,000 fine.

The French parliament has also introduced a new criminal disposition, punishing any attempt to solicit an examination of genetic characteristics for oneself or for a person for whom one is legally responsible in the absence of a medical prescription with a €3,750 fine. By banning this practice, the French parliament is seeking to protect people against the development of genetic tests available on the Internet, the reliability and quality of which are contested by all professionals.

As far as labour law is concerned, French legislation precludes the use of genetic testing. A law passed in 2002 introduced a new provision into the civil code, whereby “no one may be subject to discrimination because of his or her genetic characteristics.” This law also specifies punishment when discrimination based on the risks of inability to work or invalidity takes account of “predictive genetic tests focusing on a disease before it has been identified or a genetic predisposition for a disease.”

The French insurance code prohibits insurance companies from using the results of genetic tests, no matter how these may have been obtained.

The bioethics law of 7 July 2011 introduces a new system of information for close relatives in the event of the diagnosis of a serious genetic anomaly in a person.

Examinations of an individual’s genetic characteristics for medical purposes may only be carried out in healthcare institutions, medical laboratories or organisations authorised by the regional health authority on the recommendation of the Agence de la biomédecine.