Genetic Discrimination

A genetic test result can have profoundly adverse effects on an individual, their family members, and on society. A genetic diagnosis might affect a person's ability to perform a job that could not be accommodated for in reasonable ways. For example, an individual with recurrent and untreatable cardiac arrhythmia that leads to loss of consciousness owing to an inherited ion-channel defect would be ineligible to work as a long-distance truck driver. An individual at risk for chronic beryllium disease, given sufficient exposure, may be ''protected'' out of jobs that increase exposure and so, risk of disease. In both cases, individuals could be barred from their preferred occupation, raising the question of how to balance competing rights—an individual's right to self-determination (to choose for themselves which risks he/she is willing to incur), and an institution's right to protect individuals against harm to themselves, and/or the public, including itself (the public from dangerous driving or an individual from increased risk of serious disease). Balancing competing interests is complicated not only by potential for greater good (say, the brilliant chemist with inherited susceptibility for chronic beryllium disease, who, if permitted to work in his risky, but preferred occupation might make a discovery of enormous benefit to society) but also uncertainty about the likelihood of various outcomes associated with a test result. For example, should an asymptomatic individual with a predisposing, but incompletely penetrant mutation for the ion-channeling defect be similarly restricted, as asymptomatic individuals with complete penetrant mutation? Framing the risk benefit question is far from simple.

Determining whether distinguishing individuals' ability to obtain social goods based on genetic information is ever ethically acceptable is likely to remain contentious, because discrimination is typically covert and so is difficult to identify and remedy. For example, individuals often disclose private information in the context of interpersonal trust, such as friend to friend. Conflict of interest in such disclosures exists when one person has competing obligations, obligations to the friend but also obligations to, say, an insurance agency employer. Information obtained in confidence may then be used against the individual disclosing, if the recipient determines their primary obligation is to an outside entity. Here the disclosure is not entirely consensual, because of the unknown ends. Other types of involuntary disclosures exist as well, as in the case of small rural areas where one's family history may well be public knowledge. Equally, if not more troubling, may be the potential for self-imposed exclusions based on personal beliefs about self-worth and entitlement connected to one's understanding of their genetic test result. Individuals may deny themselves education, marriage, children, etc. because they believe a test result means they are unworthy. Given that we all harbor deleterious mutations, we are all theoretically vulnerable to genetic discrimination at any point in our lives.

Getting Started With Dumbbells

Getting Started With Dumbbells

The use of dumbbells gives you a much more comprehensive strengthening effect because the workout engages your stabilizer muscles, in addition to the muscle you may be pin-pointing. Without all of the belts and artificial stabilizers of a machine, you also engage your core muscles, which are your body's natural stabilizers.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment