11/04/2013 05:13 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 10:52 EST

Bill would change Ontario Human Rights Code to prevent genetic discrimination

TORONTO - Physicians and patient advocacy groups are supporting a proposed change to the Ontario Human Rights Code to protect people's genetic information from being used by insurance companies and employers.

The Coalition for Genetic Fairness says some people are already being denied insurance because they have a genetic predisposition for a particular disease.

Bev Heim-Myers of the Huntington Society, one of 15 patient groups in the coalition, says insurance companies can't ask for a genetic test simply because you check a box admitting to a family history of a disease or illness.

But she says they will deny coverage based on your family history if you refuse to get a genetic test, and failing to disclose what you know would also void your policy.

Dr. Ronald Cohn, who runs a DNA research lab at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, says many parents are afraid have their child tested or participate in clinical trials because of a fear of genetic discrimination.

Liberal backbencher Michael Colle introduced legislation to prohibit discrimination by insurance companies and employers on the basis of what he calls "genetic characteristics."