by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted August 30, 2007 in DNA Testing, DNA in General, Jobs Involving DNA
Service members of the US Armed Forces may risk their lives for their country but if they’ve got a disease-causing genetic mutation, they are shown the door. Karen Kaplan at the LA Times writes on a disturbing US armed forces policy to deny benefits to servicemen and women who have congenital or hereditary conditions unless they’ve already served 8 years.
Kathy Hudson of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University:
You could be in the military and be a six-pack-a-day smoker, and if you come down with emphysema, ‘That’s OK. We’ve got you covered. But if you happen to have a disease where there is an identified genetic contribution, you are screwed.
It’s an antiquated policy that was meant to prevent people from enlisting for health benefits knowing they would later develop a serious and/or life-threatening condition. Ironically, genetic discrimination against civilian employees in the federal government was banned in 2000. The same could happen to all insurance policy holders if the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2007 isn’t passed into law but even if it is, it won’t apply to military personnel.
To keep their military patients from being denied health benefits, doctors are now advising their patients to avoid genetic testing of all forms, including private testing. Dr. Mark Nunes, who headed the Air Force Genetics Center’s DNA diagnostic laboratory at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi:
If someone called me up with regard to genetic testing, I had to say, ‘That might not be something you want to pursue.”
You could get court-martialed if it were revealed that you had sought medical treatment or testing outside the system.
This is shocking and dismaying. How soon will it be before the US armed forces (or any other country) begin genetic screening of recruits? As if it’s not already hard enough to get qualified people to serve. Who would want to join the military knowing they may not get the benefits they deserve, especially health benefits which is undeniably one of the most important.
For more on genetic discrimination against job applicants, see my previous post – Want a job? Submit your DNA.
More on genetic discrimination in the military:
NB: The 81st Medical Group operating out of Keesler Air Force Base has the only medical genetics center in the Department of Defense.
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