It’s finally here, folks. Bio-terrorism meets bio-marketing. Fauxgressive President Obama, making a claim for government transparency and national economic emergency, has delivered what the Big Health and Pharma lobbyists have been salivating over since the inception of the Human Genome Project: access to the public’s genetic information. The model for national genetic testing and data storage has been in effect for 12 years in Iceland, in a program called deCODEme.
The financial sector collapse of October 2008 and the administration’s hurried and largely unread American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of February 2009 included $20 billion for the digitizing and electronic uploading of all medical records. Would the American people have surrendered so easily without such an “emergency”? The EMR will be carried out by the nation’s physicians,who will be penalized economically for any tardiness in getting on board with the government’s program.
The period between autumn 2010 and January 1, 2011 is expected to resemble a “gold rush” as physicians and hospitals rush to take advantage. So the timing is urgent, during 2009, not late in 2010, for physicians to potentially exploit what looks to be an electronic medical records bonanza.
Americans have been reassured that privacy and security considerations have been protected. The medical benefits of this gigantic transfer of private medical information far outweigh the risks, they say. Throughout the blogosphere a tidal wave anonymous comentors relate personal incidents in which the sharing of medical records between physicians saved lives. Fail safe’s exist, getting access to records is difficult, they insist.
One problem with that theory: The U.S. Patriot Act allows access to medical records without the knowledge and consent of the patient. There is a permanent gag order in place for use and examination notification by designated entities. State secrecy, bad under Bush and getting worse under the Obama administration, will prevent disclosure of any use of private medical data. The National Security Agency’s informational driftnet surveillance and interpretation has been contracted out to commercial interests and private industry analysts, such as information giant Booz-Allen Hamilton, subsidiary of the The Carlyle Group.
Another problem: Federal and state laws provide scant security against high tech medical snooping and genetic disorder propensity discrimination. Health insurers are well known to eliminate from coverage those with “pre-existing” complaints. Employers could make negative use of such information. Genetic propensity potential is the “pre-existing” complaint issue of the future.
Another problem: An enormous number of personnel and employment records have been negligently stored, criminally accessed or stolen for criminal purposes and little has been done about it.
The fact is, the health and pharmaceutical industries have been salivating for electronic medical records (EMR) for a decade. President Bush set it as a goal,. But it took a fake progressive president Obama, and a trumped up financial meltdown to bring it to fruition. The “war on terror” and the Patriot Act will secure a wild corporate success for the program. Industry lobbyists made massive donations to all the candidates likely to win power, with gigantic sums flowing both to Barack Obama and House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi. The political “left”, usually skeptical on privacy and surveillance issues, have been mum on the issue of EMR. No surprise there, since trusting Obama’s goodwill in these matters is part of their cult of personality and esprit d’corp.
Iceland was selected as the prototype for genetic code data mining due to the genetic homogeneity of its tiny population. Physical isolation of its Nordic settlers, native intermarriage and a common ecological history, made the Icelandic population ideal for testing. The lack of popular resistance to the program made it easy. Once it was proved such a program could succeed Big Health and Big Pharma poured billions into the project.
From Mother Jones:
This partnership is just one of many attempts to profit from a revolution in human genome research. A field once dominated by academics has exploded in the past five years with go-go biotech entrepreneurs and pharmaceutical giants. They all dream the same dream: They realize that it may soon become possible to understand the genetic processes that cause diseases and, as the genes yield up their secrets, to find ways of isolating and treating them. As Roche spokesman Roland Haefeli explains, his company thinks deCode’s research will help it “make drugs.”
Health industry patenting of genetic information may create problems for individuals further down the road should they require their own medical or genetic data. The American Civil Liberties Union is pursuing just such a case, involving breast tissue.
My goodness. Consider the intelligence bonanza for ordinary law enforcement and the NSA’s “war on terror” intelligence regime, the secret trials, unlimited :threat” imprisonment. If your genetic material is misread, substituted for another’s, lost, or falsely implicated in a criminal procedure, what will be the consequence? Sounds like 1984 on steroids.
Again from Mother Jones:
Patients with …. illnesses interact with deCode through a network of collaborating physicians. Based in offices around the island, the doctors gather blood samples and provide the company with raw biological material. Before sending in the blood for testing, the doctors remove the patients’ names, replacing them with encrypted IDs. After receiving the samples, deCode processes the DNA in its laboratories, obtaining genotypes (genetic profiles) for each individual.
These are then matched with medical records, linking genotype to phenotype data—physical details, including a person’s disease status, age, and weight. DeCode fits each genotype into a jigsaw puzzle of family inheritance patterns that can be verified, if necessary, by referring to Iceland’s genealogical records dating back 1,000 years (and now almost entirely computerized). Such a massive cross-referencing should give deCode an unprecedented ability to isolate genes.
Triangulation of data pools means NO PRIVACY. We live in brave new world.
International genetic testing and data mining will be a bonanza for the military-industrial complex. China thinks so. China has refused Big Pharma’s efforts to mine its genetic data. No doubt, all of this genetic information will be processed to yield new generations of biological and genetic weapons, tailored to attack subtle variations in code, rather like a biological neutron bomb without the mess. It isn’t too far-fetched to suppose this information will be used to cripple and sicken our “enemies” at far less cost. It can be used to quell resistant populations or cause sterility or massive pharmacological dependencies only the new Big Pharma can satisfy.
I bet it will.