Don't Dis My DNA

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

There are laws on the books to protect us from discrimination based on race, religion, sex, and age. And soon we may see a law that bans discrimination based on genetic information. So, if you have a family history of breast cancer, for example, your insurance company can't refuse to cover you, or even charge you more. And your employer can't refuse to hire or promote you, and on the flip side can't fire you for it, either. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act passed the Senate last week by a vote of 95-0, and is scheduled for a vote in the House tomorrow. President Bush has already said he'd sign it. But, it's been a long 13 years for Rep. Louise Slaughter (D, NY). She's sponsored a similar bill every year since 1995, and joins us on the show today to talk about what it means, and to answer some of the criticisms about the bill. Is this an issue that's affected you? Have you avoided DNA tests for certain illnesses? Or if you run a small business, how will this bill likely affect you?

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I support any non-discrimination action, however, I am concerned that this will lead to federal or state-level mandatory DNA testing, which I do not support. This makes it a conflict for me to support this bill.

Sent by Kate | 3:49 PM | 4-30-2008

As an actuary, I appreciate the concern that those with a pre-disposition to a condition have with regard to insurance coverage. However, as with any process which limits the information that can be used to assess insurance risk, eliminating access to that means that all other people will have to pay more to cover the risky. Is everyone willing to pay more on his/her house insurance to insure my house for earthquakes, because I live in Salt Lake City? I am guessing not.

Sent by Joan Ogden, FCA, MAAA, Consulting Actuary | 3:53 PM | 4-30-2008

i was recently diagnosed with MS. I was without insurance at the time because i was laid off at the end of '07. until i got my current job and its wonderful health-care benefits, i was PETRIFIED that i was destined to a lifetime fighting for coverage and/orlying to employers. i couldn't be happier to hear this news! i can now proceed to fight the disease with one less thing to fear.

Sent by john | 3:56 PM | 4-30-2008

Does anyone really believe this will protect our rights? Cigarettes don't cause cancer, we don't discriminate, and we all have equal rights, right?

Sent by Margaret | 4:03 PM | 4-30-2008

While this seems to be a good bill; why isn't the good Rep from NY promoting the ADA Restoration Act? The courts have severely limited what the orginal law was supposed to do and this new bill to clarify this; is still stalled in Congress!!! Meanwhile; how many disabled people are being discriminated against on a daily basis all over this country??? These disabled people have illness that can be controlled by medicine so they are not classified as "disabled" yet if they don't take their medicine or eat regularly; their illness becomes life threatening.

Sent by jm fay | 6:59 PM | 4-30-2008

I am scientist and have been questioning for years the very subject Rep. Slaughter mentioned several times.

What is to prevent our well intentioned society from eventually tampering with the egg's and sperm's genetic structure to ensure that we make perfect "blond hair and blue eyed" babies.

Rep Slaughter spoke exactly how I feel this will happen. "Who would not want to eliminate cancer?"

What is to insure that geneticist do not eventually offer us tailor made perfect children? What is to prevent us from excluding certain persons with undesirable genetic traits from propagating? society from eventually tampering with the egg and sperm genetic structure to ensure that we make perfect "blond hair and blue eyed" babies?

Rep Slaughter spoke exactly how I feel this will happen. "Who would not want to eliminate cancer?"

What is to insure that geneticist do not eventually offer us tailor made perfect children?

Sent by Dave | 12:34 PM | 5-1-2008