Dr. Andy

Reflections on medicine and biology among other things

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Legislating against genetic discrimination

An interesting commentary on genetic discrimination in the 9/1 NEJM.
Published accounts of reported genetic discrimination in both life insurance and employment surfaced in the 1990s, along with an increasing number of policy recommendations expressing concern about the potential for genetic discrimination and arguing for legislation against it. However, the early reports often involved allegations of discrimination on the basis of disease, rather than a genetic predisposition to disease. Subsequent studies have shown that although there is widespread concern about genetic discrimination, there are few examples of it — and no evidence that it is common.
Greely goes on to argue for banning such discrmination, even if it isn't common. He avoids refuting any arguments against such a ban. I think the biggest objection would be that it could make insurance more expensive for the healthy. For example, those who knew they were at high risk of early death would by disproportionate amounts of life insurance, increasing claims and eventually cost. Of course as the author notes, for most common diseases (diabetes, atherosclerosis) the genetics are complex and have modest effects on risk


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