(NaturalNews) Most everyone knows not to head to work, a social event or school with a raging cold, complete with frequent bathroom trips and excessive nose-blowing. Doing so would certainly land you some nasty stares, and likely lead to the suggestion that you head home instead of spreading your germs to others.
Now, what if you take those same settings – a school or the workplace, for example – and consider someone who has a genetic marker for an ailment? Should they be on the receiving end of unkind looks and be told to leave because they’re bound to develop an illness or infection which they do not yet even have?
It would be ludicrous to think it could happen, but the sad reality is that it already has. Yes indeed, people are being judged and removed from society all because of their DNA. They’re shunned from the public simply because of what makes them unique.
Sad but true: prejudice based on genetic status
Sixth-grader Colman Chadam, a student in Palo Alto, California, knows this firsthand. Because he has the genetic marker for cystic fibrosis, a contagious lung disease, he was asked to leave the school a few weeks into the school year. Feeling that the removal was absolutely uncalled for – he doesn’t have the infection, after all – his parents filed a lawsuit against the school district on the grounds of genetic discrimination – or prejudice based on genetic status.(1)
According to the family’s attorney, Stephen Jaffe, the school district violated the Americans With Disabilities Act as well as the child’s First Amendment right to privacy.(1)
The lawsuit makes it very clear that Colman Chadman (CC) never had cystic fibrosis, only the genetic marker for it. Even with the marker, it’s not guaranteed that he’d end up with the condition. The lawsuit provides some background about the boy:
At the time of his birth in 2000, CC was diagnosed with a life-threatening cardiac defect which required immediate surgical intervention to save his life. As part of the newborn CC’s medical treatments, a genetic screening was performed. That genetic screening revealed CC carried certain genetic “markers” associated persons who may or may not develop cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening childhood illness. A further diagnostic tests were performed on CC which revealed he did not have cystic fibrosis.(2)
Although CC’s medical condition has been carefully monitored since birth and the emergency cardiac surgery which saved his life, CC has never had cystic fibrosis. …(2)
Banned from receiving an education because of DNA
Despite having this knowledge, school staff members and others continuously interrogated his parents about his condition, often seeking details about his medical history. They even went so far as to inquire about any home treatments he might have been receiving. This ultimately culminated in a series of lengthy email exchanges, emergency school meetings and letters. Finally, the family was informed that the “ideal solution” was that the young boy be removed from Jordan Middle School, where people were clearly unable to grasp that the boy simply had a genetic marker for a condition, but did not actually have the condition.(2)
All of this is a sad commentary about how unfairly people are choosing to interact with one another. It’s difficult enough that many individuals face challenges when they do have certain ailments, or even if they so much as look “different” in the eyes of the so-called popular masses. People are alienated, questioned and treated unfairly based on appearance, physical abnormalities or other limitations. In these instances, people often say that it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
However, in Colman’s case, even that uplifting thought has been cast by the wayside. Today, it seems that people are even judged based on what’s inside of them: their DNA.
Ethical issues abound regarding access to genetic information
The lawsuit perhaps sums it up best, stating:
This case raises critical legal, medical, ethical and moral issues of apparent first impression. With the accelerating advance of genetic technology and genetic information increasingly available to greater sectors of the public, legal disputes over access to and use of genetic information are inevitable. While this case involves the alleged wrongful disclosure and use of genetic information by a public school district, it raises broader issues of who gets to know private genetic information and what uses can be made with that knowledge.(2)
Is this really the direction society wants to move in?
Sources for this article include: