What interested you, as a clinical geneticist, in consulting
with an insurance company?
In my genetics practice, I see a variety of patients –
fetal, pediatric, adult, and cancer-related. What I enjoy about
this field the most is that genetics is not only applicable to all aspects of medicine,
but also to many other disciplines, including life and health
insurance. I was initially drawn to the field during my pediatrics residency. I
found myself gravitating towards the most complex cases, looking for answers
and explanations for families who were burdened by unexplained and often
unexpected medical issues. The ability to make diagnoses and clarify the
outlook of some known conditions has been one of the most rewarding aspects of
my role in clinical genetics, which I have brought with me to insurance
What is the added value a genetics specialist can bring to
the life and health insurance industry?
The rapid and substantial advances in genetic research and
technology have made getting genetic testing increasingly common for
individuals who wish to discover more about as well as understand their
potential health risks. In terms of life and health insurance, a genetics
consultant can help industry professionals grasp the implications of certain
genetic variations on an applicant’s current and future health. It can also educate
them, as they generally do not have a background in genetics, which will help them
make more informed decisions. Genetics consultants can also provide education
about the growing number of known genetic variations and mutations, how these
can influence an individual's predisposition to certain genetic conditions, and
the significant impact many of these variations/mutations can have on morbidity
As genetic testing becomes more commonplace, opportunities will
emerge for insurance companies to develop new products or services.
consultant can assist in the development of such products, providing the
necessary expertise to ensure they are scientifically and ethically sound as
well as beneficial to customers.
What are some ways health professionals and
insurers can ensure responsible use of genetic information? Are there things
you would like to see change, and if so, why?
The responsible use of genetic information by
health professionals and insurers is crucial to avoid unfair discrimination and
ensure fair practices. This can be done through the development of and
adherence to guidelines and policies to govern and ensure ethical and
transparent use of genetic information. It is also prudent to obtain informed
consent for the use of genetic information, and that the use of genetic
information is limited to what is necessary for the decision-making process.
Health professionals and insurance company underwriting, claims, and medical
professionals should receive education and training about genetics, ethical
issues, and legal regulations, to help ensure they understand the complexities
of genetic information and are better equipped to use it responsibly. Some countries
already have laws in place to prevent certain types of genetic discrimination:
in the U.S, for example, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) specifically
prohibits use of genetic information in health insurance. Given the rapid
advancements in genetics and genomics, policies and practices related to the
use of genetic information should be regularly reviewed and updated as
necessary to reflect new knowledge and ethical considerations.