Getting A DNA Test Could Keep You From Your Dream Job

One of the exciting and mysterious properties
of human genetic information is that your DNA doesn’t just store who you are, it stores
who you could be. More than a simple “fingerprint” that
encodes a unique identity, your genome provides a spectrum of probable personal futures but
this knowledge could be used against you. As individuals, increased knowledge of our
genetic makeup has helped us to better understand our heritage and ethnic origins, revealed
family members we never knew, and helped personalize medicine. But our genetic identities don’t share the
same legal protections as our medical records and there has been a lot of buzz lately about
an individual’s right to keep their genetic information to themselves. Of course you’d want your doctor to know
what diseases you may be at risk for but what about your insurance company? Giving your health insurance company access
to your genetic information could drastically change how much you pay and life insurance
companies may just not cover you at all. Basically, one gene could change the fate
of your coverage. In this doomsday scenario, let’s hope you
are genetically well suited for a high paying job, because genetic composition could be
used to help determine your eligibility for a job, promotion, or raise. Think that’s crazy? Genetic traits, such as color blindness and
height, are already being used as selection criteria for some jobs, for instance military
pilots. So it’s not that much of a stretch to expect
that knowledge of traits such as intelligence could mean that one candidate for a promotion
a raise is selected over another based on their genetic potential and not necessarily
demonstrated ability. This could also affect private education with
things like college acceptance or scholarships. Consider this: You have a decision making
position on a major sports team and it’s draft season. In addition to all of the players’ performance
statistics and personal records, you also have their genetic information. You can now see which players have beneficial
mutations like the R577X mutation in the ACTN3 gene that helps fast-twitch muscle increase
running speed, would you even consider drafting athletes without that mutation? You can see also that this year’s most promising
player has a moderate risk factor for cardiac arrhythmia. Do you draft him knowing he might have heart
problems a few years into his contract? Would this type of knowledge affect the salaries
your team would offer? Giving others access to explicit information
about our genetic potential could limit the opportunities they make available to us because
they’d know more about whether or not an investment in us is a good bet. In the future, genetic data may influence
who we date, who we vote for, or even how we design our genetically modified babies
and refusing to share our information with employers or insurance companies could mean
higher costs or penalties for keeping them in the dark. Currently, there are some government protections
designed to mitigate damage resulting from discrimination on the basis of genetic identity
or failure to disclose such information, but those protections are far from comprehensive. For instance, the US Genetic Information Nondiscrimination
Act (GINA) does not address life insurance, disability insurance, or long-term care insurance,
and even though knowledge of what is hidden in your genetic code could have an enormous
impact on you *and* your family, there is currently no federal law preventing the surreptitious
testing of your genetic material without your permission. In this digital age where companies are profiting
from all kinds of our information, data clearly has monetary value. So maybe we should consider protecting and
limiting access to our personal data the way we do with our money and financial information. For more on how genetic testing works watch
this video with Trace and Amy, share your opinions in the comments below, subscribe
to Seeker and keep coming back here for more videos.

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