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UCLA Magazine Fall 2004
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Fall 2004
ACT II
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Genetic discrimination: The fear of genetic discrimination is a continuing and significant concern of the American people. The scientific genetics literature argues that there is no basis for this fear despite reports of individuals’ experiences of discriminatory behavior in employment and insurance. In one case, for example, a woman with an exemplary work record was fired from her job after her employer learned that she had tested positive for a genetic mutation associated with emphysema. Genetic discrimination, therefore, is a topic that deserves more than the cursory dismissal that it often receives from the genetics community, particularly since the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission has prosecuted cases, including the one cited here.

A woman with an exemplary work record was fired from her job after her employer learned that she had tested positive for a genetic mutation associated with emphysema. Genetic discrimination, therefore, is a topic that deserves more than the cursory dismissal that it often receives from the genetics community.

Thus we can see that the impact of the Human Genome Project depends on our ability to educate the public about not only the advances in genetics, but also their limitations. We have to develop an understanding of how genomics contributes to our understanding of who we are. We need to consider the interaction of our genes and our environment. The UCLA Center for Society and Genetics will be critical in these quests.

Edward R.B. McCabe is co-director of the UCLA Center for Society and Genetics, executive chair of the UCLA Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief of Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA. He also is chair of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health and Society.

Linda L. McCabe is an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Human Genetics and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the ethical implications of genetics and the Human Genome Project.

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