Genetic test results to be kept private in Canada

Senate passes bill which prevents insurance companies from gaining access to results of testing

It’s a highly controversial issue – should insurance companies have the right to see the results of genetic testing? For some, it’s overstepping a human rights boundary – but for others, insurers should have the right to position premiums based on their results just as they would for other medical examinations.

Well now, the Senate in Canada has spoken – and it has blocked employers and insurers from gaining access to genetic test results on Canadians.

Known as the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act, the idea is that there are now no financial repercussions to obtaining genetic tests – results are kept private and it will be illegal for employers and insurers to request them.

Speaking about the introduction of Bill S-201, Senator James Cowan commented to CBC that knowing about a genetic predisposition “is power” – he believes that nothing should be done to discourage people from taking the tests which could ultimately save lives. According to Cowan there is evidence that some Canadians have been side-lined or placed under surveillance as a result of the tests.

Having been approved by the Senate, the bill will now move on to the House of Commons. It is hoped that with a relatively new Government in place, the bill can be passed quickly.
However, concerns remain in the insurance industry – which has predicted significant rises for both critical illness insurance and life insurance if insurers are no longer able to access the results of genetic testing.

Speaking to CBC, Frank Zinatelli, the vice-president of the Canadian Life and Health Association, commented that some people “may be priced out due to this increase.”

Where do you stand on the genetic testing debate? Should insurers have access to test results? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.