Genetic Discrimination Banned — Gattaca Still Possible?

Illustration for article titled Genetic Discrimination Banned — Gattaca Still Possible?

Yesterday the United States Congress passed the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA), which bans health insurance companies and your employers from using your genetic information against you. This is a major step in the right direction, but does it go far enough to prevent a dystopian, Gattaca-style future? The new bill prevents most forms of discrimination against citizens from private industry, but what about the government? What if Congress decided they could achieve genetic purity by screening all US citizens for their diseases? No one's saying it's likely, but there are some things that don't add up* about the new bill...


Fact: There isn't any language in the bill covering government action to discriminate against its citizens. There are still people in this country calling for racial segregation and some of them, like Strom Thurmond and Trent Lott were in Congress until 2003! Who's to say a new breed of DNA-based eugenics supporters haven't already begun inflitrating the government?

"But the bill's been passed," you say. "Show me even ONE of these gene-racists you speak of!"

A fair challenge...

Exhibit A: Tom Coburn, Senator from Oklahoma. Last fall both the House of Representatives and Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass GINA into law but Coburn mysteriously stymied them all, blocking the bill for eight months. He claims it was to revise the bill to make it harder for people to sue companies for discrimination, but he is a medical doctor. As a doctor he should have been 100% behind the bill, so why the opposition? We may never know until it's too late...

*This is of course, tongue-in-cheek...GINA's a great bill that should be applauded, even if it does mean we'll never get to play the role of genetically-imperfect heroes in a dystopian future.

Source: Genetics and Public Policy Center, Image:



Josh Wimmer

You know why striving for quote-unquote genetic purity is a bad idea (besides the obvious reasons)? The same reason trying to get everyone speaking the same language is a bad idea: Keep your portfolio diversified.