Imagine for a moment that you, like every other employee in your office, are comfortable knowing you have a stable life insurance policy assuring you and your family to a quality life for years to come. Now, imagine that the company you work for suddenly takes away or changes your health insurance coverage because of a recent genetic screening test they conducted in the workplace. That coverage you once treasured is now being altered to afford you coverage for health issues only detected by the genetics test. If you want more coverage, you’ll have to ‘cough up’ the extra cash. While this dilemma is fictional, the reality of it is real and on the very near horizon. Genetic testing in the work place can be beneficial and/or harmful to the individuals at large, but looking at the deontological and utilitarian aspects of this new reality you may gain a better understanding of why we are heading where we are heading.
There are many benefits to the development and discovery of the human genome. Individuals are now able to determine what they are at risk for based on their genetic makeup before they even reach the age they would normally be considered ‘at risk.’ With that information people can start taking medications, vitamins, or supplements early, and change their daily habits or workout regimes to alter their projected life path, simultaneously creating a new one. If you judged a book by its cover the benefits of genetic testing would seem to outweigh the bad. However, the bad, concerns privacy issues and for a lot of people that is a big deal.
Anders Persson insists, “An intrusion into privacy is morally permissible if, and only if, a sufficient justification can be given that outweighs the individual’s claim to privacy” (2003). I would argue the justification to genetic testing invading privacy is that it reveals information about an individual that can hinder their livelihood without their discretion. “Only in the ‘exceptional cases’ should ‘the use of genetic screening… be considered… [and] the performance of the test does not prejudice the aim of improving conditions in the workplace’ (Holtzman, 2003). If a test is conducted without the consent of the individual, its use should only be for a research project, climate survey information or the like. If they follow that rule of thumb companies would be happy and so would the individuals being screened. Still, employers need to maintain employee privacy, Persson and Hansson have created a model for determining privacy infringement that could prove useful to companies in general (2003):
1) “The intrusion is undertaken with one of the following three purposes:
a. To ensure that the employee performs the tasks and fulfills the role responsibilities, owed to the employer, that are explicit or implicit in the contract of employment,
b. To protect the employee’s own interests in matters for which the employer is morally responsible, and to do this with means that are also in the employee’s...