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In Letter to U.S. Senate, AAAS Urges Passage of Genetic Protection Bill
AAAS, the world's largest multi-disciplinary science society, has written to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and members of the U.S. Senate urging passage of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. If signed into law, the bill would protect individuals and improve the climate for medical research, AAAS said.
"Not only can the fear of discrimination deter individuals from seeking genetic tests that could help them make medical decisions, but it can also negatively affect recruitment for clinical trials that could shed light on human health and disease," the letter said.
By examining genes found in samples of blood, body tissues, amniotic fluid or hair, doctors can, in some cases, assess a person's predisposition to inherited disorders, including some types of cancer. Though the tests have limitations, and must be assessed in light of an individual's life style and exposure to environmental factors, they increasingly are being used as part of the overall health regimen beginning even when a fetus is in the womb.
The bill—known as GINA—would prohibit employers and insurance companies from discriminating on the basis of genetic information that comes to light about an individual. Backers say the prohibition would encourage Americans to use genetic testing as part of their medical care.
A version of the first GINA bill was introduced in Congress 13 years ago. The current version passed the House last year on a vote of 420-3, but didn't advance in the Senate. This year, it was attached to a mental health bill that passed the House on 5 March.
The Senate could take up GINA next week. It passed the measure unanimously twice in earlier sessions. In a separate letter, AAAS thanked Reid for his support of the bill.
Edward W. Lempinen
18 April 2008