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Genetic testing by insurers could lead to economic eugenics

12 October 2000

Genetic testing by insurers could lead to "economic eugenics" Westminster, 12 October 2000--The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has warned that discrimination by insurance companies on the basis of genetic screening will lead to fatal discrimination against unborn children. Adults might be refused insurance or denied jobs on the basis of test results, but unborn children could pay the ultimate price through abortion. SPUC was responding to reports that the government will tomorrow grant insurance companies the right to refuse cover or increase premiums for those shown by genetic tests to be prone to Huntington's disease. It is reported that approval to discriminate against those who test positive for seven other conditions, including Alzheimer's disease and hereditary breast cancer, is also being considered. Paul Tully, general secretary of SPUC, said: "This move represents a very worrying precedent. It will lead to greater use of genetic testing and discrimination. When the parents of an unborn baby have been tested in this way, the expectant mother will be under pressure to have her baby tested and aborted if found to be carrying the same gene. "Both public and private health services will see this as an opportunity to reduce their risks and their costs by aborting children who are prone to various conditions. Equally disturbing is the message that this sends to people with congenital diseases: 'You are not wanted; you are not welcome in our society.' "To judge the long-term economic value of an unborn child on the basis of his or her genes would result in fatal discrimination against the most vulnerable, or economic eugenics."

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