all in the genes

Wired has a story about the passage in the US HR of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. The nub:

If legislation passed Wednesday by the House of Representatives becomes law, it will be illegal to deny a job or health insurance on the basis of a person’s genetic makeup.With more links drawn between genetic profiles and disease predispositions every day, supporters of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act say the bill will ease patients’ worries of being singled out for faulty genes.

As genetic technology becomes more and more advanced and accessible, it will be interesting to see how things develop. For example, although this bill makes it illegal to deny someone employment based on genes, what happens if people start voluntarily disclosing their genetic results in order to make them stand out as a better candidate? If they do, the end result could be the same. And what then? Might the result not be the same? Would there be legislation then introduced to preclude positive, as well as negative discrimination?

It also makes for rather interesting ethical questions. For example, one argument that could be advanced is that genes simply reveal various characteristics of a person that may or may not make that person suitable for a job. For example, if genetic testing determines that an individual has a 90% chance of having a fatal stroke in the next year (and no, I have no idea whether or not that is an accurate example), should that person be hired as the pilot of a 747? Why would it not be reasonable to not hire that person on the basis of those results?

Of course, that very argument, if taken to its ultimate conclusion, also has the potential to lead to truly horrific (at least IMHO) dystopian societies.

Time to go watch Gattaca again.