'Genetic discrimination' outlawed

By Niall Hunter-Editor

People with a genetic predisposition to certain conditions cannot be refused life insurance cover or mortgages because of this, under soon-to-be introduced legislation.

Under the Disability Act, which was recently passed by the Oireachtas and is about to come into law, any information gained by genetic testing of an individual cannot in future be used to discriminate against people when applying for life or other insurance, mortages, or loans.

The Act will also make it illegal to practise 'genetic discrimination' in terms of occupational pension entitlements or job applications.

Larry Warren of the Alpha One Foundation has welcomed the move in the new legislation.

The Association represents people with Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, an inherited genetic respiratory condition which along with cystic fibrosis is the most common fatal disease in Ireland, affecting around 1,200 people in Ireland.

He said people with genetic conditions such as Alpha 1 had expressed concern about the effect testing family members for genetic conditions would have on insurance and mortgage applications.

"Genetic discrimination will be illegal in Ireland when the Act is introduced in the new year."

He said while around 1,200 people have Alpha One deficiency, around 200,000 people carry the gene for the condition, so genetic discrimination, if it was allowed, could potentially affect a lot of people.

The anti-discrimination law will apply to all genetically inherited conditions.

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