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Why Popular Genetic Testing Kits Might Not Be That Great After All

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This is only my opinion and not the representation of Saintel Daily, LLC.

I saw a post online yesterday that is kind of disturbing.  And not necessarily in the way that you’re probably thinking.  The post I read suggested reasons why you shouldn’t “gift” someone with a DNA test for Christmas.  DNA testing companies are maybe the ones to blame as they are aggressively pushing their DNA testing kits, and calling them the “perfect gift”. Further, they’ve discounted these kits severely, so they’re essentially a steal.  I kind of want to back up my statement of disturbing.  Maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but it feels a bit weird to get this for someone.

When I think of the “perfect gift”, I think of something a little bit more personalized to the person.  And while this might seem personalized there are many issues with checking these things out in the first place.  I also want to preface this with the fact that I’m a huge genealogy nerd.  I love researching and understanding my family’s heritage.  There are some pretty big, unanswered questions that I would like to try to solve, but I’m not sure that I want to do it this way.

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Why exactly?  Well, the biggest concern with these DNA kits is with privacy.   When you spit into that test tube and send it off to be analyzed, you’re handing over access to extremely sensitive information about things including your health, personality, and family history. It’s all there in the fine print: Testing companies can claim ownership of your DNA, allow third parties to access it, and simply by virtue of possessing it make your DNA vulnerable to hackers. These companies aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong.  In fact, many companies go to great lengths in order to make sure this type of data doesn’t manage to go missing.  But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

Further, and maybe even scarier – this information could be used against you.  The Genetic Information Non-Discrimination act allegedly prevents health insurers and workplaces from discriminating based on DNA, but gaps in the law mean that life, long-term care, and disability insurance providers can still legally make decisions based on findings from DNA tests. Those are just privacy-related concerns.

If you decide to share your genetic information with a doctor, which you might do if the results were medically relevant in some way, it could impact the health coverage you receive.  Worse – if an insurer asks you whether you have ever taken any genetic tests, you could be legally compelled to share information relevant to your health.  Which means you might not qualify for certain coverage.  While I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t know things about ourselves and our health, it seems that ignorance is bliss when it comes to genetic testing.  I didn’t have a genetic test done, but I was turned down for specific insurance due to the fact that I had a specific pre-existing condition. Knowing a little bit about my family tree, I know there are many other conditions that I am likely pre-disposed to.  Which means, these results wouldn’t necessarily be in my favor, from an insurance perspective.

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What if you know that you’re predisposed to a certain type of cancer?  Sure, that’s great from a prevention perspective, but your insurance company might not cover your treatment if you get it anyway.  Maybe I should go back to my previous statement and suggest that this is disturbing.  It’s disturbing to think that someone would gift this to you.  Honestly.  In general,
I like the idea of being able to trace my roots, but it does sort of blur the lines a little bit.  Lastly, this is something that you need to be careful with – in terms of the information.  Think twice about doing one of these tests.  As always, use caution.

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