Genetic Discrimination (Maybe) in Canada

From CTV News: Some Canadians suffering ‘genetic discrimination’

With medical advances, Canadians can now learn whether they carry the genetic risk for devastating diseases. But that knowledge could come at a price, suggests a study that looked at the growth of “genetic discrimination.”

The study from researchers at the University of British Columbia looked at Canadians at risk of developing Huntington’s disease, a degenerative brain disorder for which there is no cure or treatment to slow it.

They found the respondents reported discrimination most often in insurance settings. A full 29.2 per cent said they had experienced discrimination because of their genetic risk from life insurance, long-term disability, or mortgage insurance companies or agents. The discrimination came in the form of insurance rejection, premium increases, or requests to take a predictive test….

Interesting study…though it’s worth pointing out that the study does not really provide evidence that genetic discrimination goes on. First, the study was based on self-reported discrimination, rather than documented discrimination. Also, the word “discrimination” is loaded. The word can just mean “differentiating between kinds or cases”, but in common usage it means to treat different cases differently in an unfair way. And you simply can’t rely on self-reporting when it comes to identifying unfair treatment: just because I feel that I’ve been treated unfairly doesn’t mean that I have been. That’s not to say that the results of this study aren’t interesting and useful; it’s just to point out the limits and assumptions of this sort of research.


About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.
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