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A three-dimensional human DNA model. (The National Human Genome Research Institute)
A three-dimensional human DNA model. (The National Human Genome Research Institute)

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Dec. 13: The price of your genetics, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Price of genetics

Frank Zinatelli of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (Genetics, Insurance – letters, Dec. 12) gave a useful summary of the industry’s current policy for access to genetic data of individuals who seek coverage. But this is a rapidly moving field. In a very short time, it will be natural for insurance companies not just to ask for data that already exist, but also to require a genome sequence as a condition of writing a policy.

Whether this is “fair” or not is a difficult question, but genetic data reach about as deeply as possible into the secrets of our hearts. Some kind of regulation, not just the industry’s own policies, is surely needed.

Harry Duckworth, Winnipeg


According to Frank Zinatelli, the fairest approach for all policy holders is to define the risks of each and every policy holder and rate that person’s policy accordingly. Given that the entire purpose of insurance is to spread risk across a broad spectrum of policy holders, I would argue that the fairest approach for all would be to have each and every policy holder pay the same rate. That way, the risk is spread most broadly, and a policy holder who may have a higher risk because of a genetic factor over which the person has absolutely no control is not penalized for his or her choice of parents.

Rick Schwartz, Oakville, Ont.


Nexen economics

Only by ignoring economics can one see a “fine balance” in Harper’s Measured Verdict (Dec. 11), permitting the CNOOC state-owned enterprise (SOE) to take over Nexen.

Chinese SOEs receive overt and covert subsidization through low-cost credits, tax breaks, subsidies, free land, preferential public procurement and political favouritism. How can Canadian firms compete on such a playing field?

As CNOOC proceeds to standardize its machinery and equipment throughout its international organization, it will purchase increased proportions of these from familiar Chinese sources at the expense of less well known Canadian suppliers. Result? Reduced spin-off benefits for Canada.

No new jobs will be generated by the takeover. Headquarters jobs in Calgary managing Nexen’s international activities will likely be transferred to CNOOC HQ in China. CNOOC will likely station some of its own employees in Calgary to run the Canadian subsidiary in harmony with CNOOC’s business culture.

Will CNOOC allege there are no qualified Canadian workers available and import temporary workers at lower pay from China – as is happening with the Dehua International Mines Group’s Murray River coal project? Very likely.

Finally, look for technology to transfer from Canada to China – not the other way around.

Archibald Ritter, Distinguished Research Professor in Economics and International Affairs, Carleton University


School daze

I have volunteered at a school and have found that teachers exhibit the same range of dedication and ability that one sees in other jobs, ranging from exceptional through mundane to abysmal (ABCs Of Rights – letters, Dec. 12). I don’t regard all teachers as “greedy, militant unionists,” but greatly respect the hard-working and dedicated teachers in the profession. On the other hand, I have little patience for untenable perks when so many are in financial difficulties.

Alex Young, Toronto


Margaret Wente (Throw The Kids Under The Bus – Dec. 11) states that since 2003 Ontario has increased education spending by 45 per cent, with most of that money going to salary increases for teachers. As a teacher at the top of the pay grid, I have seen a 22 per cent pay increase from 2004 until the end of the current contact this year, which works out to an an average 2.75 per cent per year. However, since the average rate of inflation over the same period has been 2.2 per cent, I am looking at a real increase of 0.55 per cent annually.

As far as sharing the economic pain, teachers have already agreed to a zero per cent wage increase over the next two years.

William Chappell, Toronto


Nuclear failure

Paul Koring is right to signal the successful North Korean satellite launch as a failure of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (N. Korean Rocket Success A Failure Of Nuclear Non-proliferation Regime – Dec. 12). That being said, the NPT is not just about preventing “rogue” nations from acquiring nuclear weapons, but also the eventual abolition of all nuclear weapons. The U.S., a treaty signatory, has never ruled out the threat of pre-emptive nuclear strikes against Iran, North Korea or indeed any other state that might contemplate building a nuclear deterrent. In this context, the North Korean nuclear program is a symptom and, at most, a contributing factor, to the failure of the non-proliferation regime.

Scott Burbidge, Port Williams, N.S.



Patients have long had a right to refuse unwanted treatment, even if the refusal would lead to death. A patient’s substitute decision-maker may also refuse treatment on the patient’s behalf – especially if the patient previously expressed a wish not to have the treatment. This is why it is important to discuss your wishes with family members, as André Picard notes (Rasouli Case Shows Need To Be Proactive About Treatment – Dec. 10). That said, none of this is legally controversial and refusals of treatment are not at issue before the Supreme Court in the Rasouli case (Patients Are ‘Forced To Be Kept Alive,’ Court Hears – Dec. 11). The case deals only with a possible right to demand treatment doctors consider inappropriate.

Whether government should fund life support for patients in a persistent vegetative (or minimally conscious) state is an important policy question that legislatures should address. However, that issue is also not before the Supreme Court: No arguments were made on the basis of limited resources. The court is aware that if it creates entitlements to treatment, there will be resource implications, but it is unlikely to resolve the case on the basis of the need to ration health-care resources.

Hilary Young, assistant professor, Law Faculty, end-of-life legal issues, University of New Brunswick


Darwin for mayor?

Herewith, the Top Five reasons Darwin the monkey (The Ikea Monkey Fella – Arts and Life, Dec. 11) would make a better Toronto mayor: 1) no rap sheet; 2) superior communication skills; 3) no interest in football, so he’d be able to attend more council meetings; 4) tiny fingers, so you’d never notice if he flipped you the bird; 5) accusations of “left-wing conspiracies” are virtually unknown in the animal world.

John Reardon, Toronto

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