Today's Presidential Action
- In his weekly radio address, President Bush called on Congress to enact reasonable legislation to prohibit genetic discrimination in employment and health insurance.
- The President also announced that he has tasked his Administration with working with Congress to develop sensible legislation that addresses the complex legal and scientific issues involved.
Background on President Bush's Action
- On February 12, 2001 scientists announced their completion of a map of 95% of the human genetic code. Scientists have found that humans are 99.9% identical at the genetic level, but the 0.1% that is different holds important clues to susceptibility or resistance to disease.
- This development could provide valuable information about diseases. Differences in our genes have been tied to 3000 to 4000 diseases like cystic fibrosis, cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, schizophrenia and heart disease. As science advances, genetic testing will become cheaper, more reliable and more available. Scientists estimate that by 2010 tests for genetic predisposition to 25 major causes of illnesses and death will be widely available.
- These scientific developments raise serious moral and legal questions. For example, although medical conditions have been linked to certain genetic markers, there is no certainty that many of these diseases will actually develop. But there is growing concern that employers and insurance companies will use genetic information to discriminate by denying jobs or insurance coverage to individuals who have predictive genetic markers for certain diseases. There is also a concern that current laws have not kept pace with the issues raised by the scientific and technological progress of genetics.
- As Governor of Texas, President Bush signed legislation in 1997 that prohibits genetic discrimination in employment and group health plans.
- President Bush believes that it is inherently unfair to deny insurance or employment to Americans who are healthy but have a genetic predisposition for a condition that may never develop. Without legislation, individuals do not have complete and certain protection against genetic discrimination. The leading scientists behind the mapping of the human genetic code have expressed concern that the absence of legislation could have an impact on genetics research in the long-term.
- President Bush wants to work with Congress to enact genetic discrimination legislation that is fair, reasonable and consistent with existing laws to prevent discrimination.
For more information, contact White House Press Office 202/456-2580