Genetic tests in the insurance system: criteria for a moral evaluation

Poiesis and Praxis 1 (3):185-195 (2003)
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An increasing number of genetic tests are available as an early spin-off from human genetic research. Beyond their application in the context of medical diagnosis there are other possible domains of use: e.g. in the testing of individuals asking for life or health insurance. It is claimed that individuals with an increased genetic risk might have to pay higher premiums or, worse, might be unable to obtain insurance coverage at all. The main question discussed in this paper will be whether there is a right to health and/or life insurance coverage without prior genetic testing. The legal regulations of the use of genetic tests in the insurance system are various. While some countries in principle permit the use of (some) genetic tests for the calculation of actuarial risks, others banned genetic tests for non-medical uses; still other countries have not made any explicit provisions up to now. In the face of the attempted harmonisation of legal systems, as well as an increasing commercialisation of the international market for genetic tests, which neglects national borders, providing criteria for a moral evaluation of this issue appears to be a timely and urgent task. The view defended in this paper is that a right to health insurance without genetic testing is legitimised, insofar as health insurance belongs to the provision of elementary requirements, and insofar as the latter is everybody's moral right. On the other hand, it is implausible to postulate a right to life insurance without genetic testing – as long as life insurance is understood to be a part of one's provision of supplementary requirements



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