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Genetic Testing in the Workplace.

  • Date Submitted: 07/13/2010 09:36 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 38.9 
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Ethics of Genetic Testing in the Workplace

The case I will attempt to examine is Genetic Testing at Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.   This case involves a worker who was required to submit to genetic testing after receiving surgery on his wrists for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.   The worker (Gary Avery) was told to report for a mandatory physical after returning to work in which blood would be drawn.   Gary Avery’s wife was registered nurse and she inquired about the need for the examination to include drawing blood, she found out the blood was for genetic testing.   Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad told Gary Avery that if he did not submit to the blood testing that he would be fired. It was discovered that the company had been secretly testing workers with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome for a DNA defect known as Chromosome 17 deletion.   It was thought this genetic defect was associated with the condition of Heredity Neuropathy Pressure Palsies.   It thought that this condition made people genetically predisposed to pressure related nerve injuries such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.   Ironically, the link between Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Chromosome 17 deletion had not been scientifically established, and would not have been admissible in court.  

It was unlikely that Gary Avery could have been affected by the condition of Heredity Neuropathy Pressure Palsies because it only occurs in 1 out of 2500 adults. Additionally, the numerous other workers affected by Carpal Tunnel Syndrome were those who had spent many years doing heavy bone-jarring labor.   Gary Avery’s union filed suit on behalf of 36 employees who had submitted to the testing procedures of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, who incidentally had filed disability claims for job related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.   The lawsuit was based on the Americans with Disabilities Act which states that “Medical examinations of existing employees must be job-related ands consistent with business necessity”, which the...


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