Genetics Discrimination Has Started – What Does It Mean?

Currently it is limited in its scope and practice, but it seems genetics discrimination is on the rise.

Genetics Discrimination

Andre Spivey

Andre has over 10 years of experience in Tech and Start-ups ranging from the advanced tech in the US Air Force to building his own educational software company Live 2 Learn Differently. His is a proud graduate of Morris Brown College and Cornell University.

When we think of DNA and genetics discrimination, we often think Sci-Fi movies manufacturing soldiers for battle. We even think about parents who sometime in the future will be able to easily make “designer babies”, choosing everything from height to hair color. There has been much ethical controversy over genetics testing and designer babies. Our technological advancements are leading us to be able to determine genetic markers for many diseases and ailments, henceforth, creating better cures; but they’re also exposing us to more information about people, allowing us to judge them sooner, in better and worse ways.

The medical industry will use this to its advantage to advance research, create cures, and improve medicine, but in the hands of other corporations (such as insurance companies) it could be used to decide who gets the job.  Imagine filing a workers comp claim for carpal tunnel, and your organization has access to your medical records and genetic records. They could argue that your job didn’t cause the injury, but your genetics did. This seems far-fetched, but it has already been done by the railroad company Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

In this case, the railroad workers sued the company for genetics bias and won their case.  In another case, a student–yes, a child–showed genetic markers for cystic fibrosis and was pulled from a school because of it. Kids with lung disease cannot be around each other due to high rates of infection and being contagious. Currently it is limited in its scope and practice, but it seems genetics discrimination is on the rise.

Information is always both good and bad. As a father of a child with autism, this concerns me, as many argue that genetics issues cause autism. Will they discriminate against my other children, because one of them has autism so they may be pre-disposed? What if I decide to have another child? In the future, will my grandchildren be discriminated against due to genetics?

The positive is that we’ve now created laws that not only protect those who are disabled, but those who merely don’t have perfect genetics.  This was done in 2008 when the Genetics Information Nondiscrimination Act passed.

What it all says it that, progress has been made in many ways to confront discrimination. We’ve moved forward in terms of dealing with race and sexism, however there is more work to do. Just as we’ve begun to address current issues of discrimination, we’ve found a fancy new high-tech way to label each other.  Understand that this isn’t far off; there will be genetic effects on children in Flint, Michigan and St Joseph, Louisiana from lead which could cause them to face discrimination, along with their children and generations to come.

Think about how the Zika Virus affects pregnant mothers and their babies. This is an issue that is here, and rather than wait to rectify it, we should act now.

Check out these links for previous cases and additional information:

http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/4-18-01.cfm

http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/5-7-13b.cfm

http://www.genome.gov/12513976

Watch this interesting TedTalk on the Genetics Revolution Debate:



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1 Comment
  1. […] our previous article Genetics Discrimination Has Started: What Does It Mean?, we approached this new topic from the perspective of employees, employers, and how genetics may […]

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