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Should genetic information be disclosed to insurers? Yes

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 07 June 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:1196
  1. Søren Holm, professor
  1. Centre for Ethics, Law and Society, Cardiff Law School, Cardiff CF10 3AX and Section for Medical Ethics, University of Oslo, Oslo
  1. holms{at}

    UK insurers have said that they may seek approval to use the results of genetic tests for cancer from next year. Søren Holm believes there is no reason not to pass the results on to insurance companies, but Richard Ashcroft argues that the risks of disclosure justify privacy in most cases

    The main argument for disclosing genetic information to insurers is that there are no good reasons for not disclosing it. If we accept that life or health insurers can legitimately seek and obtain other kinds of health information that predicts insurance risk, then we should also accept that they can seek genetic information that is predictive in the same way. There is no reason for treating genetic information differently.

    What is the purpose of insurance?

    The main purpose of life or health insurance is to spread the costs of expensive but unpredictable events across the pool of the insured, thereby converting a possibly catastrophic loss to a predictable regular expenditure. The actuarially fair price is the price that adequately reflects my risk plus the administration costs. This is, for …

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