GENTECH archive 8.96-97
Consequences of genetic discrimination too serious to ignore
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- Date: Thu, 24 Jul 1997 04:22:56 +0200
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Consequences of genetic discrimination
too serious to ignore
July 23, 1997
USA TODAY from Dialog via Individual Inc. : The news of President
support of a bill to ban discrimination in health insurance based
on a person's genetic
makeup received rightful front-page coverage in USA TODAY
(``Clinton backs bill to
block genetic bias,'' News, Tuesday).
The rise of genetic testing is an offspring of efforts such as the
Human Genome Project
to ``map'' human DNA, the building block of life and wellspring of
Increasingly, genes that cause specific traits are being located,
and some have been used
to deny health-care coverage. What seems to be lost in the debate,
however, are the
consequences of assigning a genetic definition to the word ``normal.''
In all likelihood, this will become one of the defining issues of
the next few
If science enables us to locate so-called ``defective'' genes, and
individuals are held
accountable for them, three successive wrongs would likely occur:
Since genetic makeup is determined before birth, gene-test
discrimination would hold
people accountable for circumstances completely beyond their control.
If society as a whole is faced with widespread genetic
discrimination, people will
eventually demand a way to screen out all of the ``undesirable''
eliminating the very diversity that makes humans unique among
If a genetic trait can be used to deny health coverage, it is a
small step to assign a
genetic blame-factor that can be used in court to shield people
from the consequences of
their actions. At that point, the criminal justice system and our
quality of life as a
whole would collapse as rapes, drunken driving, murder and a host
of other social ills
are dismissed on the basis of genetic predetermination.
Scientific research should continue, but the cost of ignoring
genetic shortcomings in
public policy issues is far smaller than the price of genetic
would ultimately lead to genetic manipulation, loss of social
diversity and abdication of
Barry B. Bannister Jr.
[Copyright 1997, Dialog]