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Medical News & Perspectives
August 21, 2002

Preserving Privacy, Preventing Discrimination Becomes the Province of Genetics Experts

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JAMA. 2002;288(7):815-819. doi:10.1001/jama.288.7.815

Rochester, NY—More than a dozen middle-aged Burlington Northern and Sante Fe railroad workers filing disability claims related to carpal tunnel syndrome were subjected to genetic tests without their knowledge or consent. Testing was done to screen for a genetic marker linked to carpal tunnel syndrome. While no specific gene for this disorder has been discovered, the tests were searching for any gene that might hint at an extremely rare disease that may include manifestations of carpal tunnel syndrome. The company surreptitiously performed the tests to avoid paying disability claims for any worker carrying the obscure gene. The workers sued and the case was settled earlier this year.