25 March 2008

Doctors Outline Policy To Prevent Genetic Discrimination

by Kate Melville

The American College of Physicians (ACP) has released a policy document which they believe should be integral to new laws designed to protect against genetic discrimination in employment and insurance. Six policy positions, appearing below, are the focus of the document.

"While they're not quite there, Congress does continue to move closer to passing federal legislation that protects the use of genetic information in employment and insurance coverage decisions," said David C. Dale, president of the ACP. "This monograph is important for the ongoing discussion."

The first two positions in the paper are aimed squarely at insurance providers and stem from a 2007 study that found that while patients were happy for their doctor to have access to their genetic information; most did not trust health insurers not to misuse their genetic information through disclosure or discriminatory practices.

Employers also get reined in, with position three explicitly denying employers the use of genetic information in hiring and firing.

The ACP also looked at a report done by the National Partnership for Women and Families that documents how fears of genetic discrimination negatively impact patient health care and financial well-being, public health, and scientific advancements. Examples include shielding genetic information from health care providers, refusing genetic testing, or undergoing testing using an alias. Two more ACP positions which consider insurers and employers are:

Finally, the ACP wrapped-in specific Congressional considerations:

Genome Analysis Left Wanting
Human Genome "Far More Complex Than Anyone Imagined," Laments Prof
The Policy Document

Source: American College of Physicians