After numerous years of debate and general inaction, it looks like Congress is set to pass a bill banning genetic discrimination. The bill is expected to be signed by the president.

This is good news. What the law will do is ban employers and insurance companies from using someone’s DNA profile to deny him or her a job or coverage. So, for instance, if you have a genetic marker for breast cancer, neither your company nor your insurer can use that fact against you. You’d have to actually have breast cancer before an insurance company could deny you coverage or raise your rates.

DNA profiles have the potential to significantly improve doctors’ ability to monitor our health and treat significant medical problems before they become serious. However, if our genetic markers can be used against us, very few of us would consent to be tested. Assuming this bill does indeed become law, we can have our DNA profiles examined without fear that bad news on the genetic front will lead to discrimination by our employers and insurers.

Genetic science holds great promise. This step by Congress can help mitigate the negative side of DNA profiling and ensure the information gained from tests are used only to benefit patients and not punish them.

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