ADVERTISEMENT
See Inside September 2008

Tougher Laws Needed to Protect Your Genetic Privacy

In spite of recent legislation, tougher laws are needed to prevent insurers and employers from discriminating on the basis of genetic tests

More In This Article

In years gone by, if colon cancer ran in your family all you could do was wait and worry about whether you might get it, too. Today a genetic test can determine whether you have inherited a greater-than-average risk of the disease and so could benefit from preventive care. The more doctors know about your genes, the better able they are to prevent, treat or cure illnesses.

Excitement about such prospects surrounded the start of the Human Genome Project in 1990. But the enthusiasm was soon tempered by widespread concern about the need to protect the privacy of a person’s genetic information. Simple tests that could readily reveal an individual’s genetic endowment could also readily cause embarrassment or stigma. Furthermore, insurers could deny people health coverage or raise the premiums they have to pay. And employers seeing the results could deny people jobs or fire them. At the same time, scientists and public health officials recognized that the potential to improve health care based on genetic studies across large populations could never be achieved if legions of people refused to participate out of fear that the results could be misused.

This is only a preview. Get the rest of this article now!

Select an option below:

Customer Sign In

*You must have purchased this issue or have a qualifying subscription to access this content


It has been identified that the institution you are trying to access this article from has institutional site license access to Scientific American on nature.com.
Click here to access this article in its entirety through site license access.

Rights & Permissions
Share this Article:

Comments

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.
Scientific American Dinosaurs

Get Total Access to our Digital Anthology

1,200 Articles

Order Now - Just $39! >

X

Email this Article

X