Discuss the issue of genetic testing and screening. What are the benefits and the drawbacks of genetic testing? Specifically, what were they for Reiger?
The benefits of genetic testing are pretty obvious. Genetic testing allows potential employers and other individuals receive a clear and proper snapshot about the genetic fingerprint of the people they’re dealing with. This is particularly important because certain jobs are susceptible to certain forms of intense stress and nearly every profession requires that employees and other individuals be able to engage in specific tasks related to the proper administration of the job. If an individual is genetically susceptible to a certain condition that can jeopardize his ability to do a job correctly or even safely, then a prospective employee has a clear and present right to know that — some might argue. For example, if a prospective employee were genetically susceptible to gradual blindness, an employer might want to know that if the employee were seeking a job as a bus-driver at the time. Thus, an inherent benefit of genetic testing is that it is able to provide the most relevant information that an individual might otherwise not know.
In the case of Danville Airlines, the potential drawbacks are profound: discrimination is at the forefront of this issue. If genetic testing becomes a standard method of screening employees for potential employment, the drawbacks and the related impacts of this method could extend, adversely affecting them from getting a mortgage, from receiving health insurance and impacting them in a negative fashion from any institution which has power over them. The drawbacks of genetic testing specifically for Reiger are clear and obvious, even though he’s passed the physical requirements necessary for the job, if genetic testing were used to determine whether or not he should stay employed, he would no longer be able to fly nor to work as a pilot. Genetic testing would have a strong and overly negative impact on his professional life and aspirations. Reiger would have no choice but to seek out a new means of employment.
2. Assume it is technically legal for Danville to test Reiger without his consent. Did Danville have a right to do so? Why or why not?
In this case, Danville did not have a right to do so, because nothing about Reiger’s current or pass performance indicated that he was a high risk employee, or that passengers or equipment were in danger. As stated earlier, Reiger passed the physical examination and nothing in his past behavior or actions demonstrated that there might be a problem with him or that he possessed a mental deficiency that would prevent him from continuing to be a capable pilot.
3. Assume it was illegal. How does that change your answer?
That doesn’t change my answer, it merely reinforces the fact that nothing that Reiger did or said indicated that he might pose a risk or threat to others. There was absolutely no legal basis for testing him.
4. Now, assume that Danville’s attorneys say the law is ambiguous, and that fighting a lawsuit would be expensive. How does that change your answer?
The law is not terribly ambiguous: essentially, potential employers aren’t allowed to discriminate against employees on the basis of mental and physical handicaps or disabilities. As the case describes, “Under the ADA, disabled employees could not be dismissed from a job if they performed ‘with reasonable accommodation.’ For example, an employee whose job was answering the phone and who was hard of hearing could not be dismissed. Under the law, an employer must accommodate that employee by providing, for example, a phone amplifier. On the other hand, if the only job available at the workplace was highly physical and required mobility and the employee was wheel-chair bound, or otherwise physically restrained, the company could fire that worker with no repercussions” (Mead, 2004). The distinction in this case is that Reiger doesn’t actually have any disability: a worker can’t be fired because he may develop a handicap. Essentially, one could make the argument that nearly every employee might develop some debilitating condition which would prevent them from doing their job safely and accurately. While it’s unlikely, it is still within the realm of possibility. Employers can’t just fire people randomly because these conditions might develop, even if someone is genetically predisposed to a given condition. People who have genetic predispositions to certain illnesses or handicaps can still avoid developing them or sometimes effortlessly don’t develop them at all. Doctors and scientists make inaccurate predictions all the time: the predictions should be examined, but to make proactive decisions upon which to base someone’s job and livelihood on what are essentially predictions and not facts, is simply cavalier.
5. Discuss Reiger’s situation in light of (a) the 1974 Privacy Act, (b) The Heath Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, and (c) the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act.
The 1974 Privacy Act is an act which places boundaries on the collection and use of personal information by federal agencies. The entire act was created to solely safeguard individual privacies so that individuals were protected from things like discrimination and so that their personal information was kept confidential, as situations like this one (being judged by a current employer) could occur. The 1974 Privacy Act is an act which should protect Reiger and should safeguard him from an institution like Danville prying into his personal life and making judgments based on it.
Furthermore, by prying into his personal life in this matter, one can’t help but see how his health information and the related situation is clearly connected to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. This act asserts that more Americans need to have and keep their coverage when they go from job to job so that the continuity of health insurance is something that is preserved. In this case, Reiger’s situation looks like one where if his personal information were disclosed and used against him, thus jeopardizing his job, his health insurance might also be jeopardized, as a possibility. This is something which this act seeks to prevent.
The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act is discussed above.
6. Does the knowledge that Reiger lost his father to Huntington’s disease and that he has a 90-percent chance of developing the same condition make a difference in your decision?
No, this knowledge does not make any influence at all upon my decision. As I stated, these are just predictions and none of them are absolute. Furthermore, nearly every human being has a “chance” of suddenly manifesting a sudden illness or disease. Reiger deserves to keep his job and he absolutely deserves to be protected under the law.
7. What recommendations should Julie Taylor make?
The recommendations that Julie Taylor should make is the one with the highest level of integrity. This is the recommendation which protects the individual and looks at the situation without fear and without making fear-based decisions. The recommendation that Julie should make is the one which protects Reiger and which does not discriminate against him on the basis of a condition that he may or may not develop.
Mead, J. (2004). Danville Airlines. Retrieved from UofV
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