Genetic Testing Guidelines

Workforce, July 1997 | Go to article overview

Genetic Testing Guidelines


As scientists map the genetic structure of the human body, the effects are ripping into the workplace.

In the July 1997 cover story of WORKFORCE-"Genetic Testing: Should You Be Afraid? It's No Joke"-Samuel Greengard explored the ramifications of genetic testing for human resources professionals.

Below is a discussion of the issues to be addressed in forming HR policy as discussed in a backgrounder prepared by SmithKline Beecham Clinical Labratories.

The Human Genome Project has spawned discussions of ethical, legal and social issues related to genetic testing on regional, national and international levels from its beginnings. A review done by the American Association for the Advancement of Science of the last five years of discussions (December 1989 to July 1994) reveals several areas of international consensus (Knoppers, Bartha Maria and Ruth Chadwick (9 /30/94). "The Human Genome Project: under an international and ethical microscope," Science 265; 2035). Knoppers found that most countries are in agreement on the following five basic principles:

1. Autonomy: All testing should be voluntary, based on autonomous choice. This also implies that individuals have the right not to know, and counseling as to an individual's rights and the implications of genetic testing should be a prerequisite to testing. The one exception to this principle is newborn screening for immediately treatable disorders. A recent U.S. report, however, strongly advocates that parental consent be obtained even in this instance.

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