Genetic Privacy

Employee tests nondiscrimination in employment

The following story describes the first known case testing GINA, the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act:

Will Washington Enforce the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act? (http://www.inthesetimes.com/working/entry/6065/will_washington_enforce_the_genetic_non-discrimination_act/)
Monday, June 7, 1:21 by Lewis Maltby

First-ever case tests 2008 law banning employers from discriminating based on workers' genetic profiles

Pamela Find didn't want to make history; she just didn't want to die of cancer. But when her employer fired her because she carried a gene linked to breast cancer, Fink became the first American worker to file an official federal complaint under the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA), which Congress passed in 2008.

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Pathway/Walgreens: Collect your DNA--$20 -$30; test your DNA--extra!

Wow--this is fantastic! For only $20 to $30, you can purchase--at Walgreens later this month--a saliva sampling kit (a couple of cotton swabs, aplastic container, label, postage-paid envelope, instructions). Great, now what?

For an additional fee of $79 to $249, you can actually have the DNA tested. 

In part because on-line offers of genetic testing kits have not gleaned much business, Pathway Genomics--a new company--will test the drug store market, hoping to make their money that way. 

Are you interested? Consider that the company is linked with Walgreens, so the data collected can be used to market treatments and drugs for the diseases supposedly being tested for. I say "supposedly" because we now know that nearly all disease tests touted in these direct-to-consumer products are actually determined by many factors, both genetic and environmental. The "answers" you get may or may not affect your future health--but will likely affect your emotional and psychological health, and will definitely affect your pocketbook. 

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Privacy and DeCode Genetics Bankruptcy

I'm naive, I admit, but I still have the right to expect some privacy in this American life--if not for me, perhaps for my children. So, I've always wondered what would happen when a genetic testing company folded. DeCode genetics--collector of many, many genetic profiles of Icelanders--is doing just that. Here's a comment from privacy.com. I've left in the hyperlinks for your use.

DNA Testing Firm Goes Bankrupt; Who Gets the Data?: Via Threat Level.

An Icelandic firm that offers private DNA testing to customers has filed for bankruptcy in the U.S., raising privacy concerns about the fate of customer DNA samples and records, according to the Times of London.

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Bills, laws, rules, and regulations--implementing GINA

As a citizen of the United States, you are entitled to comment on actions being considered by your government. The issues of genetic privacy and genetic discrimination reached the forefront again this week as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released the text of a proposed rule for implementing the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA).

Many people think that, because GINA was signed into law, they are now protected from insurance and job discrimination on the basis of their genetic information--not true. the "devil is in the details" applies here as in many other situations. 

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Privacy of Kids' Genetic Testing Site for Athletic Ability

News sites and genetic blogs have been abuzz over the past few days with the ATLAS Sports Genetics' release of a genetic test to determine kids' athletic ability. ATLAS isn't the first to offer the test, but the company's site trumpets:

Finding any great Olympic champion normally takes years to determine.
What if we knew a part of the answer when we were born?

There are a number of ethical questions raised by that statement and the implications of these tests, which many others have been writing about (e.g., here and here). However, I'd like to raise some concerns about the company's use of genetic information, its privacy policy, and marketing practices.

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Genetic testing on sale--Why??

Let's see if I can tell you what's happening without naming the company involved. . . .

Today, one of the companies offering genetic testing dropped its $999 price for a "full genome scan" to $399. Most of the stories I read were taken directly from the Associated Press release and quoted the company's CEO as saying, "The mission of the company has always been to enable anyone to be able to get access to their genetic information."

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Genetics for Dummies

Some time ago, my daughters suggested I write a "dummies" book about Genetics. I really don't like the series, but decided to think about it.

A few days ago, I did just that--think about it, that is--by checking out a link from some page that referred to genetics education sites. I found that there is already a Genetics for Dummies book, published in 2005, and written by a geneticist from the Northwest. 

Scooped again. But that leave more time for other things. 

If you're interested in reading this book, and other books on many, many topics, you can download free online versions. The site's bookmarked on my other machine, so I'll have to add it to this post in an edit. I had to register for and download an access program first, but could then download and read the book I wanted.

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Welcome to the geneforum blog!

Wow, have I been out of touch lately! A few weeks ago, when I returned to Oregon after selling my home in Utah, I logged in and promised to start posting blogs again.

Didn't make it. So, let's try again.

My personal news is that the Godfrey genetic pool has been increased by one beautiful baby boy, born to first-time parents. He doesn't look like any family member in particular, but does have a couple of features we suspect are genetically determined.

Now that I have access more often to a computer, I will be trying to post more regularly.

Here are some subjects I'm finding of personal interest at the moment. Let me know how these fit with your interests.

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President Bush Signs Landmark Genetic Nondiscrimination Information Act Into Law

Here's the latest from Genetic Alliance and The Coalition for Genetic Fairness (copied directly from the news release):

Washington, D.C. – May 21, 2008 – The Coalition for Genetic Fairness (http://www.geneticfairness.org/) commends President George W. Bush for signing into law today the first civil rights legislation of the new millennium, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). GINA is the first and only federal legislation that will provide protections against discrimination based on an individual’s genetic information in health insurance coverage and employment settings.

“This is a tremendous victory for every American not born with perfect genes – which means it’s a victory for every single one us,” said Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY). “Since all of us are predisposed to at least a few genetic-based disorders, we are all potential victims of genetic discrimination.”

“Today marks the beginning of a new era in health care,” continued Slaughter. “Americans can finally take advantage of the tremendous potential of genetic research without the fear that their own genetic information will be used against them.”

Just a few weeks ago, GINA received overwhelming support in both the Senate, with a unanimous vote of approval, and the House of Representatives, where the legislation was passed by a landslide vote of 414-1.

”Individuals no longer have to worry about being discriminated against on the basis of their genetic information, and with this assurance, the promise of genetic testing and disease management and prevention can be realized more fully,” stated Sharon Terry, president of the Coalition and CEO of Genetic Alliance (http://www.geneticalliance.org/).“We applaud our champions on the Hill who have worked tirelessly to pass this important legislation. It is now our responsibility to make sure the public knows that these new protections are in place.”

The health insurance protections offered by GINA are expected to roll out 12 months after the bill is signed, whereas the employment protections will be fully realized in 18 months.

“Now that GINA has been approved and signed into federal law by the President, American health care consumers and employees will no longer have to fear the adverse effects of being tested to determine their risk status for genetic diseases,” said Joann Boughman, Ph.D., executive vice president of the American Society of Human Genetics (http://www.ashg.org/) and a member of the Coalition’s executive committee. “Once this legislation has taken effect, clinicians will be able to order genetic tests for patients and their families in a manner that ensures the full realization of the advantages of personalized medicine models, while easing patients’ concerns about the risk of genetic discrimination by insurance companies and employers based on this data.”

Specifically, the legislation protects against genetic discrimination by health insurers or employers by:

• Prohibiting group health plans and issuers offering coverage on the group or individual market from basing eligibility determinations or adjusting premiums or contributions on the basis of genetic information. They cannot request, require or purchase the results of genetic tests, or disclose genetic information.

• Prohibiting issuers of Medigap policies from adjusting pricing or conditioning eligibility on the basis of genetic information. They cannot request, require or purchase the results of genetic tests, or disclose genetic information.

• Prohibiting employers from firing, refusing to hire, or otherwise discriminating with respect to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment. Employers may not request, require or purchase genetic information, and may not disclose genetic information. Similar provisions apply to employment agencies and labor organizations.

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