Genetic Testing and Individual Rights

The Canadian and American governments dealt with the issue of genetic testing this past week.  Republicans in the House of Representatives introduced legislation that would enable employers to demand genetic testing results from employees participating in wellness programs.  A worker who declines to provide such results could face massive increases in health insurance premiums.  Here are some details from a PBS story on the legislation:  http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/house-republicans-let-employers-demand-workers-genetic-test-results/.  This law, if passed and left unchallenged by the courts, would lead to workers facing discrimination over potential health issues that are entirely beyond their control.  It is also represents an egregious intrusion into individual privacy.

The Canadian parliament voted for a law that prohibits health an life insurance companies from demanding genetic testing results from clients.  Here is a link to a Toronto Star story on it: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/03/08/genetic-testing-bill-up-for-vote-is-constitutional-trudeau-says.html.  I applaud the Liberal party back-benchers who voted with the opposition parties against their prime minister and cabinet on this matter.  The Liberal government is going to try and argue that the law is unconstitutional as it could be an infringement on provincial rights, but I suspect that this is really a case of the prime minister letting his back-bench do the heavy lifting for him.

Any effort to use genetics as a basis for evaluating people is a huge step backward.  It could lead to a revived eugenics movement, albeit with a different name.  It is disheartening to see a popular lack of understanding about how genetic analysis can be misused.  This debate over the use of genetic testing is yet another reason why we need the humanities and social sciences.


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