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Genetic information controversy in the House

April 8, 1998
By: Elizabeth Malicki
MDN Columbia Bureau

On the third of February, Rep. Pat Doughtery, D-St. Louis, presented his bill to the House again. The use of genetic information and testing for insurance purposes is the focus of the bill. More than ten professional health associations such as the American Cancer Society and Sickle Cell Anemia Association support Representative in his effort.

Dan Moore, a legislative aid to Doughtery, says that currently there is not much legal action one can take against an insurance company or employer who discriminates based on geneticf information.

"We are concerned with what will happen in the future iof there never isa law concerning the issue. Right now there isn't much of a problem, but one could easily arise," Moore says.

Critics of the bill, such as General American Insurance, say that since such uses of genetics is not occurring today, there is no reason for action. Creating bills without a need is a waste of time to them.

One woman living with Alzheimers, Nancy, who chooses to remain anonymous because her current place of employment does not know her condition, was a victim of discrimination two years ago.

"I lost my last job as a computer analyst because my boss found out about my Alzheimer's. It was unfain but I didn't think anything could be done. Now I'm in sales and making half of what I used to earn," Nancy said.

Sabrina Kalleberg is the communications director of the Greater St. Louis Alzheimer's Association. She has witnessed cases of discrimination and hopes efforts like Representative DOughtery's will help eliminate the problem.

Neil Sprick, the American Diabetes Regional Program Director, says medical information is private and should be kept so until the one suffering from the disease feels comfortable sharing the condition.

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