Can insurance companies misuse personal genetic information? Is is ethically right to keep it confidential?Can insurance companies misuse personal genetic information? Is is ethically right to keep...

Can insurance companies misuse personal genetic information? Is is ethically right to keep it confidential?

Can insurance companies misuse personal genetic information? Is is ethically right to keep it confidential?

Expert Answers
justaguide eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Genetic information is not something that anyone needs to make public. Personal genetic information is something anyone is justified in keeping confidential.

The purpose behind anyone having a genetic profile created would be to identify genes that could make them more susceptible to some illnesses. Proper precautions and medical care could then be sought to delay if not eliminate the chances of acquiring the illness. If a person's genes contain chromosomes that could lead to health ailments in future generations, they could consider the fact and look at other options available before making appropriate decisions.

If personal genetic information becomes public it can create problems in their social life with forming relations with others, and the alike.

As far as insurance companies misusing personal genetic information to deny policies and health cover is concerned, a law passed in 2008 called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) makes it a crime for insurance companies and employers to discriminate against people based on their genetic information.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main way in which insurance companies could misuse genetic testing would be by denying coverage to people whose genetic tests indicate that they might be susceptible to certain diseases or conditions.  This would be very attractive to insurance companies.  Imagine, for instance, that they could tell from your genetic testing that you were at risk for some disease that is very expensive to treat.  They might anticipate that it would be economically disadvantageous to them to insure you.  They would, therefore, deny you coverage simply on the chance that you might contract that disease at some point in the future.

This sort of action on the part of insurance companies would be very worrisome.  It would deny needed health insurance to people on the basis of genetic testing.  Most people would see this as a misuse of genetic testing.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As #2 points out, the possession of genetic information, as with any information, is open to massive abuse by insurance companies, who, for example, might not give you insurance against certain types of sickness or illness if you are genetically predisposed to be more likely to get that illness. Breast cancer would be an excellent example. I am reminded of an excellent film called Gattica, which is set in a future where everyone's genetic profile predetermines what they can do in life and which partners they can marry. Obviously, this is an extreme case, but as science develops perhaps it is not so unlikely.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The other danger is that, ethical or not, legal or not, once a database of genetic information is maintained, it becomes virtually impossible to keep it confidential.  Databases are hacked, unethical companies sell information without any public disclosure, and insurance companies could then mask their denial of claims or coverage so that the real, genetic, reasons would be hard to notice and nearly impossible to improve.  I can see no way in which such information would not be abused somehow.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
This is a complex issue. The danger is that insurance companies might deny coverage based on conditions that people are supposedly genetically predisposed to, whether they have them or not. Insurance companies may also deny coverage to parents that have babies when genetic testing indicates they might have certain genetic conditions.