Genetic discrimination: international perspectives

Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2012;13:433-54. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genom-090711-163800. Epub 2012 May 15.


Genetic discrimination (GD) is a complex, multifaceted ethical, psychosocial, and legal phenomenon. It is defined as the differential treatment of asymptomatic individuals or their relatives on the basis of their real or assumed genetic characteristics. This article presents an overview of GD within the contemporary international context. It describes the concept of GD and its contextual features, reviews research evidence regarding people's experiences of GD and the impact of GD within a range of domains, and provides an overview of legal and policy responses to GD that have emerged globally. We argue that GD is a significant and internationally established phenomenon that requires multilevel responses to ensure social justice and equitable outcomes for all citizens. Future research should monitor GD and its impacts within the community as well as institutions and should evaluate the effectiveness of legislative, policy, community education, and systemic responses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Employment / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Genetics, Medical / ethics
  • Genetics, Medical / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Insurance / ethics
  • Insurance / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Internationality / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Public Policy
  • Social Discrimination / ethics
  • Social Discrimination / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Social Discrimination / psychology
  • Social Justice