Genetic Discrimination and Beyond – A Proposal for Ethical Life Insurance

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Gurcan, Ozan




The Canadian Genetic Non-discrimination Act prohibits service providers such as life insurance companies from using genetic test results in their risk assessment procedures. From a practical standpoint, however, this law does not change much for those seeking life insurance. The law does not change much for these individuals because it is reflective of what I call a 'genetic test exceptionalism' policy rather than the broader 'genetic exceptionalism' policy. What this means is that insurers are still free to request other sources of genetic information such as those from family history of genetic disease and the results of non-genetic tests that, nonetheless, reveal genetic information. These may similarly render genetically disadvantaged persons ineligible for insurance and/or increase their premiums, which are outcomes that the law is attempting to reduce. In this thesis, I critique both genetic exceptionalism and genetic test exceptionalism as ways to protect genetically disadvantaged persons and defend an alternative response to the problem of unjustified discrimination in life insurance. Without equating all genetic discrimination to "unjustified discrimination", I argue that every life insurance customer ought to be offered two options: (1) a substantive no-questions-asked guaranteed insurance; and (2) insurance based on full disclosure of information. When a person seeks insurance coverage above the no-questions-asked limit but below a maximum limit, the premium cost ought to be shared between the insured (who pays for what is controllable) and the state (who pays for what is based on "bad luck" and leads to disadvantage/expresses a negative message).






Carleton University

Thesis Degree Name: 

Doctor of Philosophy: 

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Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Ethics and Public Affairs

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Theses and Dissertations

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