An earlier version of this article was published in STAT.
The National Institutes of Health wants your DNA, and the DNA of one million other Americans, for an ambitious project called All of Us. Its goal — to “uncover paths toward delivering precision medicine” — is a good one. But until it can safeguard participants’ sensitive genetic information, you should decline the invitation to join unless you fully understand and accept the risks.
DNA databases like All of Us could provide valuable medical breakthroughs such as identifying new disease risk factors and potential drug targets. But these benefits could come with a high price: increased risk to individuals’ genetic data privacy, something that current U.S. laws do not adequately protect. Continue reading →
Doctors in North Dakota perform a kidney transplant. (Photo by ndguard/Flickr)
In recent years, alleged instances of discrimination against people with disabilities in organ transplantation have captured public attention.
In 2012, for example, the parents of Amelia Rivera, a child with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, alleged that they were told their daughter was not a candidate for a kidney transplant because of her “mental retardation.” The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia denied “disqualify[ing] transplant patients on the basis of intellectual ability.” Nevertheless, more than 51,000 individuals signed a change.org petition demanding that the hospital “allow the life saving [sic] transplant four-year-old Amelia Rivera needs to survive.” Ultimately, Rivera received a living donor kidney transplant from her mother.
Another anniversary of President Bush’s signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is coming up in late July, yet the nation remains far from offering even a semblance of equitable societal opportunity to most individuals with disabilities.
For them, full social participation is dismissed as merely an idealistic dream. With its focus on restoration of full functioning for patients, the health care delivery system might be supposed an exception, but a closer look shows the opposite is true.
Physicians’ offices, clinics, and hospitals too often have not been made accessible. Too frequently, these facilities have diagnostic or treatment equipment that some people, due to disability, cannot use. Health care provider staff are not trained to interact with or assess disabled individuals, and may be swayed by implicit biases that target disability, just as are non-medical personnel or laypersons in the population.
Photo by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights/Flickr