Preempting genetic discrimination and assaults on privacy: Report of a symposium



At a symposium in June, 2002, biomedical researchers, clinicians, legal experts, policymakers, and representatives of the insurance industry and the advocacy community gathered to address issues of genetic privacy and discrimination; and to identify research, legal, and policy gaps needing to be filled. They concluded that over the next decade, as more genetic information becomes available and the public becomes more aware of individual risks, concerns about privacy and discrimination will become increasingly important. Documented cases of genetic discrimination are rare and largely anecdotal, yet individuals with genetic conditions harbor significant fears about discrimination. Current laws enacted to protect individuals from workplace and insurance discrimination offer some measure of protection, but leave many unfilled gaps. Moreover, the use of genetic information in potentially discriminatory ways is not limited to employment and insurability. Existing laws do little to protect people seeking life, disability, or long-term care insurance. And the courts have used genetic information in a wide variety of cases including paternity, criminal, and tort (personal injury) cases. Genetic information that might jeopardize an individual's right to privacy may also be obtained in the course of research studies, including through the collection of DNA and tissue samples. The insurance industry, State and Federal agencies, and the advocacy community are all making efforts to address some of these gaps through legislation and education of clinicians, the public, and policy makers. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.