Genetic Discrimination

17 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2006


In this article, I critique a case study by professor Paul Billings and his coauthors that aims to determine whether access to genetic information may give rise to genetic discrimination. The authors conclude that such discrimination is manifested in many social institutions, especially in the fields of health and life insurance. But I argue that their findings rest on too broad an understanding of the concept of (genetic) discrimination. I propose instead the following definition of the concept of discrimination: one person, A, discriminates against another person, B, if, and only if, A intentionally treats B worse than A treats, or would treat, others in similar circumstances. On this analysis, discrimination involves an intentional breach of the principle of formal justice, which asks us to treat like cases alike (and different cases differently). On this analysis, much of what usually passes for genetic (and other) discrimination is not discrimination at all, though perhaps "immoral incompetence" on the part of the alleged discriminators.

Keywords: Genetic discrimination, "geneticism", formal justice, Rechtsstaat

Suggested Citation

Spaak, Torben, Genetic Discrimination. Available at SSRN:

Torben Spaak (Contact Author)

Stockholm University ( email )

S-106 91 Stockholm
46 8 16 45 89 (Phone)
46 8 612 41 09 (Fax)

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