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The National Institutes of Health is revising its "two strikes" rule, which allowed researchers only one chance to...
By stabilizing the components of retromers, molecular complexes that act like recycling bins in cells, a recently...
Fossil fuels power modern society by generating heat, but much of that heat is wasted. Semiconductor devices called...
Researchers are gaining insights into what made Supertyphoon Haiyan so powerful and devastating through post-storm...
Millions around the world got a first-hand look at what it was like to be in Tacloban while it was pummeled by...
Major climate data sets have underestimated the rate of global warming in the last 15 years owing largely to poor data...
The tsetse fly is best known as the vector for the trypanosome parasites that cause sleeping sickness and a disease in...
- 24 April 2014 11:45 am , Vol. 344 , #6182
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Judge Not by the Genes
14 October 2003 (All day)
The U.S. Senate voted unanimously this afternoon to prohibit employment or health insurance discrimination on the basis of an individual's genetic profile. Although 38 states have passed varying versions of genetic antidiscrimination bills, the legislation provides the first comprehensive federal regulation in this area. Experts say it will dampen fears that genetic information will be misused and will boost participation in gene-finding studies.
Genetic tests have been used for more than a decade. With the new technology, however, came the possibility of abuse--for example, the denial of health insurance based on test results showing a genetic predisposition to breast cancer. Although few actual cases of discrimination have been documented, many people avoid genetic testing based on such fears, says Wendy Uhlmann, who coordinates the medical genetics clinic at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
The bipartisan Senate bill is sponsored by Olympia Snowe (R-ME). A related bill has languished in a House of Representatives committee since May, however, so it's not clear when a law would take effect. Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) expressed hope that the Senate vote would spur the House into action. "We're hopeful as well," says Megan Thompson, communications director in the office of Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who is the lead sponsor on the House bill. Slaughter's office plans to introduce the Senate bill directly to the House, with the aim of speeding its passage.
The elimination of genetic discrimination is particularly critical as genetic tests become more prevalent, says Kathy Hudson, director of the Johns Hopkins University Genetics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Although the practice began as a way to spot disease genes in fetuses or young children, Hudson and others say, it's increasingly common for healthy adults to use them to gauge their predisposition to disease.