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Is genetic information relevantly different from other kinds of non-genetic information in the life insurance context?
  1. P J Malpas
  1. Ms P J Malpas, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, NZ; p.malpas{at}


Within the medical, legal and bioethical literature, there has been an increasing concern that the information derived from genetic tests may be used to unfairly discriminate against individuals seeking various kinds of insurance; particularly health and life insurance. Consumer groups, the general public and those with genetic conditions have also expressed these concerns, specifically in the context of life insurance.

While it is true that all insurance companies may have an interest in the information obtained from genetic tests, life insurers potentially have a very strong incentive to (want to) use genetic information to rate applicants, as individuals generally purchase their own cover and may want to take out very large policies.

This paper critically focuses on genetic information in the context of life insurance. We consider whether genetic information differs in any relevant way from other kinds of non-genetic information required by and disclosed to life insurance companies by potential clients. We will argue that genetic information should not be treated any differently from other types of health information already collected from those wishing to purchase life insurance cover.

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  • i It is important to note that AIDS is an infectious disease. Individuals cannot be tested for their risk of developing AIDS.

  • ii My thanks to an anonymous reviewer from the Journal of Medical Ethics for making this point.

  • iii This was accurate for Sovereign, Asteron, Axa and AIA.

  • iv Through PGD and IVF, selective abortion and the decision of informed at-risk parents not to have children of their own.

  • Funding: This paper was generously supported by the Auckland Medical Research Foundation Scholarship.

  • Competing interests: None.