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Massive advancements in the field of genetics has allowed employers to subject the employees to genetic tests that are usually meant to accomplish two purposes. The first purpose is to determine the hereditary health risks that an employee or a potential employee may have while the other risk is to determine the health hazards that are related to workplace conditions and work environment. The former is known as genetic screening and the latter is known as genetic monitoring.
Due to its beneficial form, most labor unions advocate for genetic monitoring but are vehemently opposed to genetic screening. As noted by Miller, (2007), genetic screening entails the systematic establishment of hereditary health risks that a person may have and thus may be used to discriminate people with high risk traits from the employment. Although it is true that the concept of genetic testing has many ethical concerns, the greatest concern of genetic testing at the work place is the fact that it exposes employees to a myriad of potential health risks that they have little knowledge of.
According to Cowan, (2008), genetic testing can have a devastating effect if it is not fully consented by the person undergoing the testing. In most cases of genetic screening at the work place, workers feel that they are obligated to undergo the testing as part of the workplace rules, but are poorly prepared for the results of such procedures. Although genetic testing can be used as a cautionary measures to ensure that the employer or the insurer do not undergo massive losses that may emanate from hereditary terminal illnesses or any other forms of diseases, its main drawback is that it exposes employees to health dangers that they are ill prepared to handle.
Once genetic screening is done, the results of the test may fall in the hands of multiple users which further expose the employees to greater dangers. This is a violation of the employees’ privacy in the sense that the major health matters that should be private and confidential fall under the hands of third party entities. In some extreme instances, employees that may be classified as health risks may be terminated from employment thus exposing them to massive dangers that include the deprivation of a livelihood.
However, what would be the most disastrous effect to the employees is the possible speculation that may follow their dismissal from the workplace as other employees may know that for one to be terminated, the dangers associated with the genetic results can be disastrous. In such cases, those dismissed are exposed to massive emotional turmoil especially due to their unprepared nature of their genetic composition.
Once the employees receive genetic results that may contain high possibility of developing certain dreaded hereditary infections, they are exposed to a myriad of emotional turmoil especially due to their ill preparedness of the diseases. For instance, a person who gets to learn that he can develop a certain disease may have a significant health deterioration caused by the nature of the emotional turmoil.
In such cases, employees may end up developing various ailments caused by what Cowan, (2008), refers to as “untrue justifications”. According to Cowan, (2008), this is a condition where by the cognitive ability of a person and the power of self-will towards life is severely hampered by the discovery of certain health information that may show that a person is at an advanced risk of getting a certain dreaded illness. It is further stated that the condition is exacerbated by the existence of confusion among the victims who are poorly informed on the possible dangers that the genetic results may contain.
In support of the argument that genetic screening may expose employees to a myriad of health risks without prior preparation, Cowan, (2008), points out that some major health risks that may have no known cure may only shorten the lifespan of the victims if they know of their possible existence prior to the development. He further assert that genetic screening results usually comes with probability chances, but the possible victims and the employer choose to concentrate on the side of the possibility of the development of a disease leaving the percentage that the disease may not occur. When adopted by the employer, this unfair choosing of the possibility of disease development victimizes an employee who may never develop any complication in the course of his or her employment lifetime.
On the part of the employee, he or she may end up being overly stressed with the fact that there are some chances of development of a disease without considering that there are also chances that the disease may never occur. Therefore, there is massive emotional investment to the side that a disease may develop with little investment on the possibility that the disease may never develop. This is caused by the fact that many employers have little investment in pretesting counseling that is supposed to show the employees that even when there are chances of disease development. Therefore, subjecting employees to genetic screening exposes them to unwanted attention to the possibility of their infections thus negatively affecting the quality of their life (Schafer, 2001).
The fact that genetic screening at workplaces are near mandatory since employees who do not consent to the process are usually given a chance to seek employment elsewhere. This means that those who do not want to face the uncertainty of looking for another job must bow to pressure and succumb to the genetic tests. This is highly detrimental on the part of the employees as they feel coerced and thus fail to own the result of the genetic screening process. It is thus very hard for the employees who may end up losing their employment due to the result of the screening to accept the results positively even after post testing counseling. This further complicates the fact that victims of employment in genetic testing get exposed to various health risks that they may have little control of their possible development as well as little information concerning them.
In conclusion, it is worth to mention that although it is true that genetic testing knowledge has revolutionized today’s health care system, its use at the workplace to determine the health risk of employees and further using the results of genetic testing to determine the employability of persons is a form of discrimination that should not be encouraged. Besides, genetic screening exposes employees to many health risks that they may be ill prepared to handle. Thus, in spite of the benefits of genetic testing, its main concern at the work place its capacity to expose innocent workers to health risks that they may have little knowledge of thus affecting their quality of life.
Cowan, S., R. (2008). Heredity and Hope: The Case of Genetic Screening. Newyork: Sage.
Miller, P., S. (2007) Genetic Testing and the Future of Disability Insurance: Thinking about Discrimination in the Genetic Age. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. 35(2). Pg. 47-53.
Schafer, S. (2001). Railroad Agrees to Stop Gene-Testing Workers. Washington Post. Web.