Why should using genetic information to discriminate against soldiers be okay?

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Sandra Porter

We were all thrilled last spring when the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act passed the House by a vote of 420 to 3. When GINA gets through the Senate, this act will protect individuals against discrimination based on their genetic information with health insurance and employment. The promise of genomic project won't ever be achieved until individuals (besides Watson and Venter) can use their own genetic information to benefit their own health, without fear of insurance repercussions.

Passing this act seems like a no-brainer.

But I glanced at Nature last night and noticed that the US Department of Defense has managed to change the Senate's version of the act and make military people exempt from protection.

How can that be ethical?

How can we ask people to sacrifice our lives for us and then say, "uh sorry, you're not insured"

I can understand that the military might place some restrictions on jobs based on physical abilities. There are good reasons, I think, for not having people with narcolepsy flying airplanes, or someone with a heart condition defusing bombs.

But I don't think that's a good reason to deny health insurance protections to people simply because they're employed in the military side of our government rather than the civilian branch.

Jonah Lehrer, fellow ScienceBlogger, has written about a case of appalling treatment for someone who's served our country.

Nature follows suit and reminds us that:

The civilian branches of the government, like every other US employer apart from the Pentagon, will be barred under the legislation from terminating employment or health coverage on the basis of results from genetic tests.

In other words, civilians working for the government will be protected from discrimination.

Military personnel will not.