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German parliament approves bill limiting genetic testing

[JURIST] The Bundestag [official website, in German], the lower house of the German parliament, approved a bill [text, PDF; bill materials, both in German] Friday restricting the use of genetic testing on humans. Specific provisions of the legislation, also know as GenDG [bill backgrounder, in German], include requiring a person to consent and to consult a doctor before testing takes place, requiring both the mother and father to consent to a paternity test before it is performed, and preventing employers and insurance companies from requiring genetic testing except in specific circumstances. Germany's Health Minister Ulla Schmidt [official website, in German] praised the passage of the legislation, saying [statement text, in German] the bill achieves necessary protection for individuals by establishing mandatory rules and high hurdles for genetic studies. According to Schmidt's statement, the legislation does not require approval by the Bundesrat [official website, in German], Germany's upper house.

A genetic testing bill had been debated in Germany for over 10 years [DW report] because of the controversy over ethical issues. The legislation is similar to a US law approved [JURIST report] in 2008 by then- president George W. Bush, which was aimed at preventing employers and health insurers from discriminating against people who have a genetic predisposition to disease. Under the law, employers are barred from basing hiring and firing decisions on genetic risk or predisposition, while health insurers would not be permitted to deny coverage based on genetic information.

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