Genomics and insurance

The lock-in effects of a politics of genetic solidarity

Authored by: Ine Van Hoyweghen

Handbook of Genomics, Health and Society

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138211957
eBook ISBN: 9781315451695
Adobe ISBN:


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When the use of genetic technologies was fostered by the Human Genome Project in the 1990s, one of the most contentious debates on its ‘social impact’ was to be found in the field of insurance. Should insurers be able to use genetic testing as a means to select out insurance candidates? In 1992, Belgium was one of the first countries in the world to explicitly prohibit insurers from using genetic information (LVO, 1992, Art. 5). As the oral history goes, the wording of Article 5 was scribbled on a beer card by a Belgian policy maker in a Brussels café, after a parliamentary debate where the fear of a ‘genetic underclass’ was discussed. The topic of genetic discrimination in insurance has since been the focus of public and expert debates worldwide and has resulted in the establishment of Genetic Non-Discrimination Acts (GNDAs) in several countries (Quinn et al., 2014). Almost three decades after the first enactments of GNDAs it seems appropriate to reflect on the origins, rise and consequences of these regulatory approaches in Europe and beyond.

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