Genetic Profiling in the Workplace

[ By on April 27, 2016 ]

Your mother died a terrible death of Huntington’s Disease when she was 35 and you know that there is a large chance that you will have the same fate.  After years of consideration, you decide that you do not want to be genetically tested to find out for certain if you will develop the disease; you would rather live your life without the diagnosis hanging over your head.  You are applying for your dream job and they tell you that you must be genetically tested for markers of diseases (such as Huntington’s) so that they have more information when potentially giving you an insurance plan.  What do you do? Do you turn down the job because they are forcing you to get unwanted information about yourself? Do you worry that if you refuse, they will not offer you the job? Are they able to not offer you the job if they see that you will require major health support in the future?  I think that the option and availability of genetic information should be a personal decision and should not be swayed or influenced by any outside factors.  Your desire or reliance on this job should not force you to discard your wishes about knowledge of your future.  What if you have a family of mouths to feed and this is your only option to get food on the table? Do you reconsider? Can companies force you to gain information that you do not want?

Another aspect of this situation that can be ethically questionable is whether businesses are able to discriminate based on the level of health risk that they face.  If you have arthritis and need to take medication every day, is it just for companies to not hire you based on the amount of insurance that you will need? I do not think that it is moral for companies to consider health as a factor when hiring employees because a person’s health has no effect on their ability to perform a certain job.  This could be compared to discriminating against race in the workplace.  Someone’s skin color, or the fact that they have epilepsy, doesn’t get in the way of them being a successful lawyer, so it should not get in the way of the jobs that are available to them.  What role does a workplace have in personal health choices?

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2 Comments on “Genetic Profiling in the Workplace”

  1. sisrael

    Emily Schorr Lesnick

    [ May 03, 2016 at 8:27 pm ]

    This seems completely unethical and illegal. It connects to how it is illegal to ask someone if they are pregnant.

  2. sisrael

    Kelley Nicholson-Flynn

    [ May 04, 2016 at 12:48 am ]

    Sashie,

    You might look into some laws about genetic discrimination. Here is one source: http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/genetic-nondiscrimination-laws-in-life-disability.aspx

    I wonder if it might be more fruitful to look into whether this affects medical insurance rates. For example, you would have higher medical insurance rates if you were a smoker or overweight. Is it because these criteria are theoretically choices? It might be useful to consider if that is entirely the case.

Hi Stranger, reply with your thoughts:

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