Eddy Curry's Heart Test

September, 26, 2005
9/26/05
10:14
AM ET
Big man Eddy Curry has known heart problems. The Chicago Bulls are interested in signing him, but first want him to take a DNA test so they can learn more about his heart condition--specifically to find out if he might be susceptible to the affliction that caused the death of Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis. (New Portland assistant coach Monty Williams, on the other hand, reportedly played nine years with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy without trouble.)

Attorney Michael McCann sums up the Eddy Curry/Chicago Bulls dispute beautifully on his SportsLaw blog, and makes it clear that this could be a precedent setting legal battle.
Curry's attorney, Alan Milstein, raises several important privacy issues in regards to a DNA test of his client. He also does not want a DNA test of Curry to become a precedent for future contract negotiations between NBA teams and players:

"If employers could give employees DNA tests, then they could find out if there's a propensity for illnesses like cancer, heart disease or alcoholism. They will make personnel decisions based on DNA testing . . . We are not about to waive privacy for Mr. Curry or set a precedent for any other NBA player."

Milstein's point is especially interesting in light of our discussion earlier this month on sickle cell trait and college football players: it appears that as technology becomes more capable of revealing genetic makeup, teams perceive a greater opportunity to add predictability to their contractual relationships. From a normative perspective, such predictability might be considered "socially-beneficial": it may save a player from continuing in a sport that can kill him, while enabling teams to more intelligently invest their resources.

On the other hand, Curry is a presumptively rational person: Why would he want to assent to something that may reduce his earning power from millions of dollars a year to zero, especially when he has no legal obligation to do so? Along those lines, is the HCM test really in Curry's best interests, or his family's best interests? And does Curry not have a "privacy right" in refusing the exam? And if he takes it, will it open a Pandora's box and require other NBA players--and perhaps all pro athletes--to take DNA exams?

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