Genetic discrimination is the term commonly assigned to actions taken against or negative attitudes toward a person based on that person's possession of variations in the genome, or variations in the genome of his or her biological relatives. A component of stigmatization, genetic discrimination differentiates social treatment based on assumptions about the value of information suggested by a particular genetic configuration in predicting present and future health status (Condit, Parrott, and O'Grady). The details of one's genome are typically available through genetic tests (Burke). The nature of genetics is such that information derived from one person's genetic composition may implicate or be attributed to the biological siblings and/or descendants of that person. Genetic discrimination illustrates the danger of a misinter-pretation—or oversimplification—of information suggested by some genes. Fear of genetic discrimination is often cited as a reason for avoidance ofgenetic testing services (Rothenberg and Terry).
Empirical evidence of genetic discrimination in contemporary society is somewhat slight (Nowlan). Early reports of genetic discrimination by adoption agencies have not been repeated (American Society of Human Genetics). Nevertheless, fears of genetic discrimination by employers and insurance companies continue to influence decisions regarding submission to genetic testing and participation in certain forms of genetic research. The result may negatively influence individuals' health (Rothenberg and Terry). Efforts to address genetic discrimination include legislation, industry self-restraint, and private action, each controversial for what it suggests about the ability to prevent forms of discrimination.
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