What are the potential injustices or misuses of DNA information?
(The second of five questions I may be asked tomorrow as part of a panel on DNA and
According to the Human Genome Project’s website on genetic legislation, no laws have yet been passed regarding the use of genetic information in healthcare, employment, and so forth.
Already, insurance companies collect all sorts of statistical data about life expectancy and risky lifestyles. A smoker who gets a lot of speeding tickets and is a member of a skydiving club is a bad insurance risk — but all of those risks are rootted in chosen behavior. Is it ethical for an insurance company to charge higher rates to a person whose genes might indicate an increased risk for, say, heart disease, or sickle-cell anemia? As it happens, heart disease and sickle-cell anemia are both conditions that affect people of African descent at a higher rate than other populations — so if you permit companies to set different rates based on genetic information, that opens up a can of worms. Who determines which genes are desireable, and which are not? (My answer to this one spills over into my answer for “Are there such a thing as ‘bad genes’?”)