Alpha-1 Foundation, Association Celebrate GINA signing; Plans Under Way to Discuss Implications, Opportunities for Alpha-1 Detection
MIAMI – The Alpha-1 Foundation and Alpha-1 Association today applauded President Bush’s signing into law the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and began making plans to take action based on the new federal legal protections.
Under GINA, companies would no longer be able to use genetic information such as a person's predisposition for lung disease, breast cancer, sickle cell or diabetes to make insurance or job decisions.
“Our community has been involved for more than a decade in the effort to bring this essential legislation into law,” said John W. Walsh, President and CEO of the Alpha-1 Foundation and President of the COPD Foundation. “We’re all celebrating a giant achievement today.”
According to Jan Petersen, Chair of the Alpha-1 Association, “the Alpha-1 community has played a significant role in advocating for the passage of this legislation and now celebrates the progress we have made. I thank all of those in the Alpha-1 Community who helped us to get to this point."
“Great news on a hard-fought battle,” said Greg Hules, Board member and Immediate Past Chair of the Alpha-1 Foundation. “The efforts of the many people involved will make a huge difference in the quality of life of those affected with COPD. You know you’re alive when you have the ability to make a positive difference in this world.”
Dennis Pollock, an Alpha-1 Association Support Group Leader from Oklahoma, was at the White House to represent the Alpha-1 community as President Bush signed GINA into law.
The Foundation’s Ethical, Legal and Social Issues Working Group, with representation from its Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee, will be meeting in the next two months to discuss the implications and opportunities that this legislation may present for Alpha-1 Detection, said Marcia Ritchie, Foundation Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.
The working group will also discuss the development of a birth screening workshop to be held in the fall of 2008. This will be a follow-up to the Foundation’s Gordon L. Snider Critical Issues Workshop Series No. 8, “The Impact of Genetic Testing: Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues”, held in October, 2000.
Partners with the Foundation and Association on the initiative to have GINA become law included the Congressional COPD Caucus, co-chaired by Sens. Mike Crapo, Blanche Lincoln and Reps. Cliff Stearns and John Lewis; the American Association for Respiratory Care; and the Genetic Alliance.
The House voted 414-1 for the legislation a week after it passed the Senate on a 95-0 vote. The bill would bar health insurance companies from using genetic information to set premiums or determine enrollment eligibility. Similarly, employers could not use genetic information in hiring, firing or promotion decisions.
Each person probably has six or more genetic mutations that place them at risk for some disease, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute. That does not means that a disease will develop, researchers said, just that the person is more likely to get it than someone without the genetic mutation.
Congressional efforts to set federal standards to protect people from genetic discrimination go back more than a decade, to a time when there were only a small number of genetic tests.
But now, with the mapping of the human genome in 2003, people have access to far more information about their hereditary disposition to potentially life-threatening afflictions such as Alpha-1, cystic fibrosis, Huntington's disease or Lou Gehrig's disease.
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About the Alpha-1 Foundation:
The mission of the Alpha-1 Foundation is to provide the leadership and resources that will result in increased research, improved health, worldwide detection, and a cure for Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. For more information, please visit: www.alphaone.org.
About the Alpha-1 Association:
The mission of the Alpha-1 Association is to identify those affected by Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha-1) and to improve the quality of their lives through support, education, advocacy, and research. For more information, please visit: www.alpha1.org.