The US Senate has unanimously passed a bill banning discrimination in employment or health insurance based on genetic testing.
"Our new knowledge about our genetic blueprint has the potential to dramatically improve our health and the quality of our lives. It also has the potential to destroy lives," said Minority Leader Tom Daschle on the floor of the Senate in Washington, where the measure was approved by a vote of 95 to 0.
"Current laws are inadequate to protect Americans from genetic discrimination," he said. Americans are not being tested - not taking advantage of medical advances and not participating in genetic research - because of their fear of discrimination," he said.
The Senate's top Republican, Bill Frist, a physician, has said on the floor of the chamber that the bill aims to "protect the health ... of individuals in this country and at the same time protect them from discrimination."
The bill will outlaw the misuse of genetic information by forbidding health insurers from denying an applicant coverage on the basis of genetic test results.
It also forbids employers from using genetic information to discriminate in hiring based on such genetic information and sets privacy standards for access to and disclosure of genetic information.
"Passage of this bill ... is a victory for the American people," Daschle said.