Genetic discrimination and screening for hemochromatosis

J Public Health Policy. 1994 Autumn;15(3):345-58.


Recent advances in tests for the genotype for hemochromatosis and suggestions that the tests be used in mass screening programs for the disease raise the possibility of a large increase in the incidence of discrimination against people who are found to be homozygous for hemochromatosis. This paper presents cases of genetic discrimination drawn from a study of discrimination against people with a variety of genetic conditions. The cases discussed here involve employment and several types of insurance discrimination against people diagnosed with hemochromatosis who either are currently asymptomatic or whose condition is controlled by means of phlebotomies. There is no justification for these types of discrimination since people with controlled hemochromatosis suffer no excess mortality or morbidity. Our study suggests that genetic discrimination is already a serious problem and that any proposed screening program for hemochromatosis or other genetic condition must consider and attempt to mitigate its effects.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Employment
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn*
  • Genetic Testing / psychology*
  • Hemochromatosis / economics
  • Hemochromatosis / genetics*
  • Hemochromatosis / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prejudice*
  • Risk Assessment