Medicine and the Law

Genetic testing and insurance: where to now?

Loane Skene, Paul Nisselle
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Is ‘genetic discrimination’ taking place against people seeking life, disability or superannuation insurance? Is it illegal, unfair or simply a legitimate part of the business of life insurance? Professor Skene comments on current laws and the Genetic Privacy and Non-Discrimination Bill currently before the Senate. Series Editor Dr Nisselle warns doctors against deliberately withholding information in reports written for insurers – they could be accused of taking part in a conspiracy to defraud.

Article Extract

Concerns have been expressed in lay newspapers recently about insurance companies’ use of genetic test results in deciding whether to issue policies and in setting premiums. An example of ‘genetic discrimination’ is given in the box on this page. There have been calls for new laws to restrict the use of genetic information, at least when the sum insured is relatively small. I believe the current law is generally adequate to protect applicants for insurance from unfair discrimination. The main issue for the medical profession, as I see it, is whether people will be deterred from seeking lifesaving or health-enhancing testing and treatment by the risk that the test results will affect their prospects for life, disability and superannuation insurance.