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Proposed genetic discrimination law sparks controversy

5 September 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 324

A German government advisory council has recommended a new law to prevent employers from using genetic test results to discriminate against employees, the British Medical Journal reports. However, the National Ethics Council's recommendations have been described as a step backwards by the country's Green Party. All the political parties are agreed upon the need for a genetic discrimination law, following the case of a teacher denied a permanent job because she had a family history of Huntington's disease.

The chairwoman of the committee, Kristiane Weber-Hassemer, said that although genetic tests should not be routinely used, they should be considered for civil servants in safe, lifelong jobs. She also said that such tests should only take place if the results would have an impact on a person's health in the following five years, affecting their suitability for the job. For people who don't have a permanent job, a genetic test result that reveals an increased risk of disease should only be considered by employers if it affects their job suitability in the first six months, the council concluded.

Volker Beck, of the Green Party, said the recommendations were a step backwards, since the government had already agreed in principle to ban predictive genetic testing. However, since a general election has now been called for this month - a year earlier than planned - such a law has not yet been discussed.

Two years ago, a teacher in Germany was refused a permanent job because her father had the genetic disorder Huntington's disease. She opposed genetic testing, and was rejected for a job on the grounds that she was at high risk (50 per cent) of developing the illness herself. The woman successfully fought the decision, and the courts ruled that she should keep her entitlement to a lifelong job.

Plans for genetic testing of German civil servants stirs controversy
British Medical Journal |  3 September 2005
2 April 2007 - by Katy Sinclair 
The US House Energy and Commerce Committee has voted in favour of legislation to prevent insurers and employers from using genetic information to discriminate against individuals. Both the Ways and Means Committee and the Education and Labour Committee have also voted in favour of the legislation, which...
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The proposed Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act 2007 is poised for fast-track consideration through the US Congress. It was reintroduced into the US House of Representatives earlier this month (HR 493), with its prospects for successful passage into law appearing better than similar past attempts. The Act aims...
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Nobel prize winner Sir John Sulston has repeated his call for new UK laws to prevent genetic discrimination. He says that when the current moratorium on the use of genetic tests results by insurers runs out, in November 2011, it should be replaced by legislation. Professor Sulston, who is vice-chair...
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Some Australian insurance companies are discriminating against people who have taken predictive genetic tests, according to the government-funded Genetic Discrimination Project. A survey carried out by the group identified 87 people who have suffered 'specific instances of negative treatment', according to New Scientist magazine. Team leader Kristine Barlow-Stewart reported the...
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The US Senate has unanimously approved a bill that would ban employers and insurers from using genetic information. Senators voted 98-0 in favour of the bill last Thursday, although it now faces an uncertain future in the House of Representatives. In 2003, the Senate passed a nearly identical bill...
13 October 2003 - by BioNews 
A teacher in Germany who has been refused a permanent job because a genetic disorder runs in her family is now fighting the decision in court, the British Medical Journal reported last week. The woman, who has relatives affected by Huntington's disease (HD), was rejected for a job on the...
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