Insurers should receive genetic data says expert

There is no good reason to deny insurers access to genetic information, argues a Professor of Ethics in a debate published in this week’s BMJ.

Insurers should receive genetic data says expert
Insurers should receive genetic data says expert

Only if we refuse to give insurers access to all health information can we reasonably stop them seeking genetic test results, says Professor Soren Holm from Cardiff Law School.

Professor Holm argues that: 'Genetic information is not special. It is not inherently more specific, predictive, sensitive or private than other kinds of health information.'

Professor Holm concedes there are worries about sharing genetic information - allowing insurers to see genetic information could deter people from getting tested or insurers may use the information inappropriately. This may be the case, he says, but the same is true for other health information - for example whether someone is HIV positive.

However, Professor Richard Ashcroft from the University of London says access to genetic information should not be allowed as it could lead to irrational discrimination. This arises, he says, from false beliefs about genetic information. It can be misunderstood or its significance over-estimated.

He says if insurers had access to complete health information, including genetic test results, it could lead to a situation which was 'actuarially fair' but 'socially unfair': 'If the point of insurance is to cover the costs of ill luck, the only sort of ill luck you could not insure against would be the misfortune to have a late onset serious genetic disorder. Arguably such people would need insurance more than most yet would be less able than most to get it.'

What do you think? Comment below or email healthcare.republic@haymarket.com

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