Okay. We’ve been derelict in our duty. We’re sorry. Nurse and lawyer are tired. Moving, marriage, etc.
However. Life goes on. Especially during baseball season. NYT recently printed an article about the DNA tests that major league baseball has been asking for some some foreign (Latin American) prospects, attempting to verify that they are who they say they are (and not, say, a few years younger.) Here are a few of our thoughts on the issues that raises:
-There’s a federal law scheduled to take effect that prohibits employers from requiring DNA testing. My question is, what do we mean by required? Can it be encouraged, or suggested, or asked? Does refusing then become harmful? Is “on a consensual basis” really code for “if you know what’s good for you”?
From what I understand, all your nice euphemisms there amount to coercion, which you can’t do if you can’t require something. So encouraging or suggesting it… not so much. Asking people to voluntarily submit to it? That would be a gray area. I guess it would depend on what actually happened to people who refused.
-Privacy is an issue. Do professional athletes cede some privacy about their health by the nature of their jobs? Can we draw a line there? A team could reasonably want to know if a player has a chronic illness, but can they reasonably know if he may be prone to developing one in the future? The testsing that’s been used hasn’t sought to do this, but it certainly could. This is a classic slippery slope.
I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. I mean, you can certainly choose not to hire people who don’t meet the physical requirements necessary to perform a certain job. Like play baseball. But an increased probability of not being able to do so several years in the future? That’s gotta be out of bounds.
-The tests aren’t used to reveal any real information at this point, except that a player is who he says he is, and his parents are his actual parents. It’s meant to prevent the sham that is sometimes used where a player “borrows” someone’s identity and birth certificate to appear younger and more marketable. There HAS to be a better way to beat that than DNA testing, right?
I tried really hard to think of a better way and… couldn’t. It’s not a problem for U.S. citizens, who are tracked from birth with social security numbers, etc. But remember what happened in the last Olympics with the Chinese gymnasts? If the government of their home country isn’t on board with the honesty thing, what CAN you do? Seriously? What? It’s not as though penalties would be particularly effective for people who don’t really have anything to lose.
-We tend to be upset by the idea that insurance companies could use genetic information against us. It feels wrong. It undercuts the purpose of health insurance, in a way– by not allowing vulnerable people to be covered appropriately. I think it would be unethical. So what happens to results of these tests? Are they used to determine parentage and then destroyed? Or are they read more closely, or kept? Hmmm. Does the privacy these athletes give up extend that far?
I guess that depends on what’s in their contracts? One would hope it would be destroyed, after being used for its intended purpose, but… we really don’t know, do we? Good quesiton, nurse!
-Genetic testing can bring unsavory information to light– the father is not the father, for instance. Should this be a concern?
I think this is really two questions. Parentage is one thing — that’s actually what they’re looking for! — and it would certainly be complicated if it was discovered that the claimed father was not the father. There are, as you imply, many possible explanations for such a finding that are not what MLB would be looking for. But if it is a voluntary test (and what that means is still open — see above), then I’d have to say surprises are fair game.
The other question revolves around medical information, and I think as long as the rules are clear, it will be fine. We don’t look for huntington’s disease in the run-of-the-mill paternity test, so why would we do it here? I’m probably oversimplifying, but it seems entirely possible to only test for the particular relevant information. And as long as the lab involved is well-regulated, we should be okay. Right?
-Is it somehow exploitative to require this of foreign citizens but not of Americans?
Well… that’s tricky. I want to say no. Because what they’re doing is applying to work in America for an American organization. Unless they’re on the Blue Jays. heh. If the requirement were worded in such a way that what was needed was positive proof of identity… it seems fair to me on a practical level. There’s a reason for asking for it from one group and not another, and it has nothing to do with who they are, but rather what information is otherwise available. Does that make it inherently okay? No. But it doesn’t set off my BS alarm.
So we guess the answer here is, we don’t know. But please tread lightly.
g’night. We need our beauty sleep!