Distinguishing genetic from nongenetic medical tests: Some implications for antidiscrimination legislation

Science and Engineering Ethics 4 (2):141-150 (1998)
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Genetic discrimination is becoming an increasingly important problem in the United States. Information acquired from genetic tests has been used by insurance companies to reject applications for insurance policies and to refuse payment for the treatment of illnesses. Numerous states and the United States Congress have passed or are considering passage of laws that would forbid such use of genetic information by health insurance companies. Here we argue that much of this legislation is severely flawed because of the difficulty in distinguishing genetic from nongenetic tests. In addition, barring the use by insurance companies of a genetic test but not a nongenetic test (conceivably for the same multifactorial disease) raises issues of fairness in health insurance. These arguments suggest that ultimately the problems arising from genetic discrimination cannot be solved by narrowly focused legislation but only by a modification of the entire health care system.



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