Privacy on the agenda

March 7, 1997

Privacy will be top of the agenda for the new Human Genetics Advisory Commission as it considers the implications of the rapidly advancing genetics revolution.

Speaking after its first meeting, chairman and Nottingham University vice chancellor Sir Colin Campbell announced an appraisal of the implications for privacy of the rapid advances in genetic testing and engineering.

The commission will also establish a group to explore the implications of genetic testing on insurance. Sir Colin said that privacy was an underpinning issue in establishing confidence in the new science, with implications not just for individuals, but for whole families. Revealing the results of a genetic test to an employer or an insurance company would not just tell someone about the individual, but also about their relatives.

"Privacy is going to be enormously important right across the board in insurance, employment etc," he said. "We will have to address the enormously complex questions, including whether employers can ask for genetic tests or whether they should be able to ask whether an employee has already had a test."

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