Thursday, January 18, 2007

Genetic Privacy Legislation

Knowledge about our genetic susceptibility to disease could empower individuals to pursue lifestyle changes and medical interventions that will improve their expected lifetime acquisition of what John Rawls calls "natural primary goods" (e.g. health). But in the wrong hands this same information could be very damaging to an individual's employment prospects and thus it could negatively impact a person's expected lifetime acquisition of their social primary goods (e.g. income, self-respect). This illustrates the potential pros and cons of the genetic revolution. Genetic privacy is a very important issue that we need to address to ensure that advances in genetic knowledge do not impose unfair disadvantages on individuals.

This story in the NY Times is encouraging. President Bush urges Congress to pass (long-stalled) legislation barring employers and insurance companies from discriminating based on the results of genetic tests. Details about the legislation are available here.