Insurance Industry Discriminates Unfairly On Basis Of Genetic Information

December 11, 1998

Genetic discrimination in life insurance: empirical evidence from a cross sectional survey of genetic support groups in the United Kingdom

People from families with known genetic disorders are not being treated consistently by insurers, says a paper published in this week's BMJ. Written by Lawrence Low and colleagues at the Wellcome Trust, the study found that only one in 20 people with no known genetic disorders encountered problems when applying for life insurance as opposed to one third of people from families with genetic disorders. The authors suggest that insurance companies' decisions are irrational and that they are not being based on the actual risk of genetic disorder in these applicants.

Low et al surveyed 7,000 members of seven British support groups for families with genetic disorders. These groups included:- Cystic Fibrosis Trust; Huntington's Disease Association; Marfan Association UK; (Duchenne)Muscular Dystrophy Group; Myotonic Dystrophy Group; Neurofibromatosis Association and Tuberous Sclerosis Association.

The authors conclude that it does not appear from their findings that the insurance industry is operating a conscious policy of genetic discrimination; rather they are showing confusion and ignorance when interpreting genetic information, which is being misunderstood outside of its clinical context.


Noorece Ahmed, Press Office, Wellcome Trust, London


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