Genetic Technologies and Relevant to Ethical Consideration

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Genetic tests are laboratory procedures that identify changes in our genes. Most human disease results, in whole or in part, from alterations in genes. Because the tests are expected to have incredible predictive power and because they may tell us personal information before we are ready to receive it, testing requested by a third party could be considered an infringement on privacy. Furthermore, the technology is new and thus subject to errors in interpretation that could result in unfair discrimination against the person who has been tested. Genes are inherited and are found not only in a single individual but also in some blood relatives. A genetic test therefore involves many people and invades the privacy of all. This paper questions the right of insurers to demand genetic tests but notes that by concealing the results of tests, applicants may practice adverse selection. If ethics are rules of conduct that society requires, then insurers will need to reexamine their ethical responsibilities in the light of this new technology. 1. INTRODUCTION

Each of the papers in this symposium addresses prob- lems that the new genetic technology may bring to the insurance industry. On one hand, the science could change the way we do business, while on the other, it could engender such fear in the consumer that legislators might change the way we do business. Genetic technology does not bring new risks or new diseases into the assessment process, but it does offer the possibility of clearer definitions of diseases and, thus, perhaps better estimates of specific risks. Today genetic testing is at the dawn of its existence as an underwriting tool. Tomorrow—or in a few tomor- rows—it may be the standard by which we practice, altering not only diagnostics but also treatment, and this could clearly have an impact on risk assessment. Many have wrestled with the means to control the technology before it causes harm, although the evi- dence for such harm is still difficult to...
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