Genetic Discrimination Bill Passes US Senate

February 18, 2005 ( - The US Senate has again passed a bill that would make it illegal to discriminate based on genetic data, repeating a step taken last year with the bill later stalling in the House.

>By a vote of 98-0, the Senate passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, ( S 306 )  according to The Washington Times. Federal law already bars discrimination based on skin color and sex; now, genetic makeup has been added to the list. The law is aimed specifically at employers and health insurance companies, which some fear could use genetic data to discriminate against certain workers.

>Last year, the Senate, by a similar unanimous vote, passed a similar bill (See  US Senate Oks Genetic Anti-Discrimination Measure ), but the House never addressed it, according to the Times.

>Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) – who has been championing this bill for seven years, according to the Times – called the bill a “victory for patients, workers and consumers across America.” He added that the bill will “prevent employers from hiring and firing folks based on their genetic information.”

>The bill is seen as not necessarily important for today, since technology has not advanced far enough so that human genes can be differentiated in order to discern what gene causes what characteristic, according to the Times. However, in the future, genes that cause genetic diseases such a cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia could be detected and politicians feared that this information could be used against patients.