US Senate passes legislation to bar discrimination based on genetic testing

[JURIST] The US Senate on Thursday voted 95-0 [roll call] in favor of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) [HR 493 materials], legislation aimed at preventing employers and health insurers from discriminating against people who have a genetic predisposition to disease. Employers would be barred from basing hiring and firing decisions on genetic risk or predisposition to disease, while health insurers would not be permitted to deny coverage based on genetic information. Called "the first civil-rights bill of the new century of life sciences" [press release] by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) [official website] and other senators, the bill was praised by President Bush [speech text; JURIST report] earlier this year, who said "we want medical research to go forward without an individual fearing of personal discrimination." The House is expected to pass the bill soon, and Bush has already promised to sign it.

Genetic nondiscrimination legislation was passed unanimously by the Senate in 2003 but failed in the House of Representatives. US Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) [official website] reintroduced the latest bill in January 2007. If it becomes law, according to the bill's findings, the law will establish "a national and uniform basic standard ... necessary to fully protect the public from discrimination and allay their concerns about the potential for discrimination, thereby allowing individuals to take advantage of genetic testing, technologies, research, and new therapies." The Los Angeles Times has more.



 

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