Following the unveiling of the first draft of the human genome sequence last week, the newly formed UK Human Genetics Commission (HGC) has announced its workload for 2000-2001. The body, set up to advise the government on new developments in genetics, will initially focus on issues surrounding the storage, protection and use of genetic information.
The HGC will explore how insurance firms and employers will be allowed to use genetic information that may reveal a predisposition to a particular illnesses. Baroness Helena Kennedy, chair of the commission, pointed out that people may like to know that an airline pilot does not have a propensity towards heart attacks, but that genetic testing in other areas could be invasive. 'We are concerned how that information is obtained, where it is kept and what it is used for. We have to ensure that human rights are not overwhelmed by scientific progress', she said.
The HGC also announced its intention to hold all its future meetings in public, a move which it see as 'essential to open and transparent debate'. In an interview for the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Baroness Kennedy said that 'scientists have a responsibility to make sure that the public know what it is they're doing'.
Meanwhile, the US Senate has rejected Democratic legislation that would let people sue for genetic discrimination in the workplace or by insurance companies. Instead, senators voted last week for Republican measures that focus on limiting the way in which insurers and group health plans can use genetic information.
Sources and References
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