Liberal Democrat shadow health secretary Nick Harvey has introduced a private member’s bill to Parliament to prevent genetic test results being used for non-medical purposes.
In his Genetic Testing Consent and Confidentiality Bill, Harvey claims that if insurance companies and employers are allowed access to genetic information, it will quickly lead to an underclass of people who are unable to obtain insurance, mortgages, or even employment.
The Liberal Democrat party has said that, although it does not expect any more parliamentary time to discuss this issue further, it will continue to press the government on the future role of genetic testing.
DNA testing has also come under recent scrutiny from the European Parliament. In a report on supplementary health insurance across the European Union (EU), former French premier Michel Rocard proposes an EU-wide prohibition on the use of medical data, including genetic test results, that could enable insurers to discriminate against certain people.
UK ministers have set up a genetics and insurance committee (GAIC) to look into the subject, which is scheduled to report by the end of this year. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has stated it will abide by whatever the GAIC decides.
Harvey said: “The current moratorium on the use of genetic testing is not being observed by all insurance companies.
“There is a danger that less scrupulous companies ignore the voluntary code of practice and ,cherry-pick’ individuals for low-premium products.”
He added: “If genetic testing were to become common practice as a way for companies to assess potential customers, then people will be deterred from being tested at all.”
Market analysis company Data-monitor claims in a new report that genetic testing will create a minefield for insurers.
“Improving, or even perfecting risk assessment offers alluring potential for greater profitability, but insurers could shoot themselves in the foot if they misjudge public sensitivity to genetic testing,” said insurance analyst David Taggart.