Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Genetic explanations, discrimination and chronic illness: A qualitative study on hereditary haemochromatosis in Germany.

Chronic Illness 2016 December
OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study is to explore the discriminatory impacts of genetic diagnosis for people living with the chronic illness of hereditary haemochromatosis in Germany.

METHODS: Semi-structured interviews with 15 patients; all had tested positive for a genetic mutation associated with haemochromatosis and already displayed symptoms of the disease. Inductive approach, with interviews collaboratively interpreted by the research group in a vertical and horizontal analysis informed by a multi-person perspective.

RESULTS: First, as the genetic diagnosis of the disease holds the promise of therapeutic intervention, the interviewees perceived it as leading to relief. Second, the interviewees felt stigmatized by their family members, they complained of social isolation and a lack of acknowledgement of their health problems. Third, they feared disadvantages for themselves or their children at their place of work, when buying insurance coverage, and when attempting to donate blood.

DISCUSSION: The findings point to the need for an expanded view on genetic discrimination. Besides institutional discrimination, it appears necessary to systematically address interactional stigmatization and take anxieties and fears into account. Here we see starting points for providing essential support through specialist and self-help groups to those faced with the genetic diagnosis of haemochromatosis in addition to and beyond the legal protection against genetic discrimination that already exists.

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