Human rights colliding with soaring disability costs


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In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld a federal law that prevents third parties, such as employers and insurance companies, from demanding genetic information from individuals.

The law aims to protect the genetic information of Canadians, who otherwise could be forced to take a genetic test to secure employment, for example, or to life insurance companies as a condition of coverage.

Genomics has gained in prominence by predicting a patient’s susceptibility to hereditary disease and determining the efficacy of targeted medications. Hence, the science of genomics facilitates personalized and precision treatments that are optimized to a person’s DNA.

Marcela Day, a senior policy adviser at the Human Rights Commission, said it’s not clear what the implications would have been if the highest court ruled against the act.

“We’re very concerned that this could leave people vulnerable to genetic discrimination in the near future,” Day commented before the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“Taking a DNA test that could save your life should not come at the price of you not being hired or promoted, or not being able to get insurance.

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As genetic testing becomes more mainstream, the sanctity of human rights and personal privacy will go head-to-head with the soaring costs of disability and healthcare.

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Ben Barfett, Principal and Consultant, has spent his life in the construction sector, specifically heavy civil, enviro, commercial, and energy. Having held senior roles in business development, technical advisory, and regional management, he earned his stripes in the field and in head office. Conscious of the interplay between commercial, legal, and execution aspects of construction, his business insights are informed by expertise in WCB policy and enhanced with disability-specific training.

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Blue Collar Consulting is a WCB and disability management firm. The company specializes in rapid and affordable disability solutions that advance current claims, contain the cost of future claims, and get injured workers back on their feet.