Saturday, April 26, 2008

G.I.N.A. passed in the Senate

Hey everyone. Sorry I've been M.I.A. for so long; as I'm sure you all are aware, these last few weeks have been incredibly hectic to say the least. Anyway, as I was picking my roommates up from the bars late Thursday night/early Friday morning, NPR made me aware that the senate finally passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimnation Act! Whoo hoo! Now it is up to the House to take a final vote on it, and then onto President Bush (the House has approved it before, as it is GINA's 3rd time in this Congressional "limbo" where either the House or the Senate has granted approval, and the other has failed to act). This Act virtually mirrors the protection under Title VII discrimination from employers, and prohibits insurers from raising or setting premiums unjustly based on one's genetics. This is great news for people with unfortunate genetic predispositions, and is a great step towards finally putting the Act into effect. Appropriately, April 25th also marks the anniversary of James Watson (an IU alum) and Francis Crick's announcement of DNA's helical structure. Also the 25th also marks the anniversary of the completion of the Human Genome Project: both of these events are landmarks in the history of human genetics. Back in February, I wrote a long post about genetic discrimination and its relevance to our class, and now I just wanted to update everbody on the progress. If you'd like to listen to the NPR broadcast, just follow the link here. Good luck to everyone with finals this week - coffee and optimism is all you need :)

2 Comments:

Blogger Stephanie Grohovsky said...

The passing of this act in the Senate is a relief to me. My major written assignment was about pre-hire privacy rights and this is where a learned about genetic testing. Genetic testing not only is an immense invasion of privacy, it also allows employers to discriminate based on uncontrollable factors. Before the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, the laws were shifted towards employers being able to gain information on employees and less towards the privacy or employees. While the law only protects against discrimination and has little to do with privacy, it is unlikely that if passed, the employer would have any incentive to perform genetic testing in the first place. With no reason to perform the tests, privacy is preserved. With the law protecting from discrimination and with it resulting in less privacy invasion, it is a win win for employees.

12:06 AM  
Blogger Vic Simianu said...

Good point, Stephanie: GINA does not, in fact, take privacy into consideration. However, remember that employer genetic testing is by no means the only venue for attaining genetic information. In fact, the prerogative relies mostly on individuals whom already have a genetic predisposition or defect to get the testing done. Therefore, as these individuals try to manage their medical and genetic ailments, they have addendums put into their medical profiles, or personal records, regarding their situations. Thus, should extra steps be taken to ensure that the privacy of such information is upheld to a higher degree than mere physical records, as it could give insight to a number of work-related factors? How can new (or old) legislation account for this? Seeing as employers have already gotten in trouble for genetic testing and discriminating on the results thereafter (EEOC v. BNSF - link below) by violating the ADA, the forced testing and consequent discrimination is unlawful in America (before GINA...remember that it isn't an actual Act, yet). That doesn't mean, however, that employers, insurers, and 3rd parties don't have access to the information. As you state, since employers have no reason to perform the test, privacy is less invaded. However, that still means that privacy can be, in fact, invaded. Should genetic information be a more protected realm of medical information under the HIPAA, or should we just rely on the fact that the potential for harm is frowned upon by nondiscrimination law. It's an interesting stage in genetic information law, that's for sure. Thoughts?

Here's the link to EEOC v. BNSF:
http://www.eeoc.gov/press/4-18-01.html

And some information on the HIPAA:
http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs8a-hipaa.htm

12:38 PM  

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