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Thursday 27th October 2016

No need to fear the results of DNA testing

19th June 2008

The Times science editor Mark Henderson argues that few of us need fear the results of DNA testing.


The consensus that all forms of genetic discrimination is unethical, is wrong.

America’s Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (Gina) provoked barely any dissent and coincides with Association of British Insurer’s decision to renew a moratorium on genetic testing until 2014.

The aim is to “prevent the emergence of an uninsurable genetic underclass?.

But this is a wrong move and unfair to business and consumers alike and demonstrates a misunderstanding of how DNA influences human health.

Insurers have been entitled to ask for family history details before setting a premium for some time but this is less accurate than DNA, which may actually open up insurance for those at present refused it.

An example is Huntington’s disease. People with a parent who suffers are often uninsurable but genetic testing can settle whether they have it or not, thus allowing them insurance while not changing anything for those who are less fortunate.

Non-disclosure of genetic information means that those who are predisposed can play the insurance market.

Research has shown that those discovering they run a greater risk of Alzheimer’s are more likely to buy long-term care policies, for example.

But single-gene mutation rarely causes a deadly disease and while common killers are influenced by DNA, many common variants contribute.

Insurance companies will still have no option but to insure people with known risks, at acceptable premiums.

Genetic testing holds little fear for most people - the market can protect our civil rights as surely as the law.


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