Genetic Discrimination in Practice
Case Study in Employment Discrimination: Nathanial Hu
Peter’s list of concerns and recommendations regarding the employment application of Dr. Hu would contain both the advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, Dr. Hu’s obvious success as a researcher, his drive, and his commitment would give IPC an edge against competitors pursuing the same research goals. While no one can predict whether the $20 million dollar investment will actually produce a return, the hiring of Dr. Hu will ensure that if it is possible, it will be achieved. In addition, Dr. Hu is willing to make a long-term commitment, which meets the company’s hiring criteria for this critical leadership position. On negative side, Dr. Peter’s would mention the increased possibility that Dr. Hu would have to leave the company earlier than desired if he developed Huntington Disease (HD). This possibility represents a threat to Dr. Hu’s ability to fulfill his commitment to remain with the company for the long-term. In addition, IPC will incur additional health insurance expenses as a result.
My recommendation would be to hire Dr. Hu and censure Dr. Peter. To not hire Dr. Hu because of the genetic results is illegal under the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), which holds that asymptomatic individuals cannot be discriminated against for employment and health insurance reasons (Norrgard). This law represents the consensus ethics concerning genetic discrimination in the U.S. today. Discriminating against someone because they might develop a disease is therefore considered unfair and equivalent to racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination.
Race and Genetic Discrimination
The use of a genetic test for racial classification, for the purpose of discrimination, is widely held to be an abhorrent practice in developed nations. The use of genetic testing is also used by individuals interested in their ancestral roots, but the science behind this practice has been called into question by researchers in this field (Abbott). However, an individual should be able to investigate their own roots, even if the science is questionable. When such information is released into the public domain without the individual’s permission though, a lot of harm can be done. Making invasions into a person’s genetic history illegal is probably the best remedy.
Genetic testing has become an important tool for medical diagnosis and treatments (Norrgard) and therefore should be available to anyone needing or requesting such services. What is done with this information, however, is another matter. Family members may suspect they have an increased risk for an early onset or even fatal disease, but would prefer not to know if effective treatments and cures are unavailable. Should one family member decide to get tested, then this may create friction between family members concerning their wishes and personal privacy because the results would have an impact on everyone in the family.
Genetic testing should only be used for personal health and curiosity and be treated as legally protected private information. Should such information be released to the public, the risk that the information will be used to violate the human and civil rights of the individual is increased. When this person holds an influential position in society, the risk is even greater. The general trend in western society has been to move towards egalitarian principles, but the public release of genetic information could threaten to reverse this trend by creating a new kind of genetic caste system.
Norrgard, K. “Ethics of Genetic Testing: Medical Insurance and Genetic Discrimination.” Nature Education 1.1 (2008). Web. 3 May 2013.
Abbott, a. “Genome Test Slammed for Assessing Racial Purity.” Nature 486 (2012):167.