Genetic testing and its uses will not be covered by any new legislation, the Government has decided. Instead it will rely on self-regulation by industry and on existing health regulations, said the Secretary of State for Health, Stephen Dorrell.
The decision would lead to self-regulation mirroring that of the City's finance industry after deregulation in 1986. There, self-regulation led to a number of scandals, such as the Barlow Clowes fraud, which went undetected for years.
Concerns over genetic tests focus on their potential abuse. Such tests can show that somebody is liable to diseases such as cancer or inherited ailments which might not show up for years. Insurance companies, for example, might insist on such tests before giving life cover, or companies might make them compulsory before offering people jobs, leading to a "genetic underclass" who are fit, yet whose genes suggest possible problems.
Mr Dorrell held out an olive branch to MPs and scientists who wanted new laws to cover such potential abuses, by saying he would look at the case for an administrative body.
However, scientists are unhappy about the suggestion. "I think it's important that this new committee should deal with policy on the possible eugenic abuses that might arise from genetic testing," said David Shapiro, of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. …