The Federation of Insurers will bring a British geneticist to Hong Kong next month to advise life insurers whether their code of practice on genetic testing needs to be revised. The organisation declined to name the expert. However, he or she is understood to be a member of a panel of specialists who advised the British Government on approving genetic tests on selected diseases for insurance purposes. Under the code, people shown in genetic tests to have a higher risk of developing specific diseases can have their insurance cover rejected or be forced to pay higher premiums. The federation said its members were not yet asking clients for the results of genetic tests, but they might soon start doing so as allowed under the code, which is based on the British version and was adopted last May. The deputy chairwoman of the federation's life insurance council, Sarah Ho Sook-ming, said: 'Once genetic tests for breast cancer and other diseases have proved to be technically reliable, we will have to ask for those results. 'We are worried the Government will suddenly step in to stop us using genetic information. We hope we can get such test results for underwriting high-risk groups. Rapid development of genome technology means more accurate and reliable genetic tests will be available.' Ms Ho warned that any government ban on the use of genetic information would shift higher costs on to consumers. The code gives wide-ranging rights to insurers and imposes the obligation of disclosure on clients. But it bans insurers from requiring clients to take genetic tests before offering a policy. The code states: 'An insurer will retain the right to request the results of a previous genetic test in the process of evaluating the risk presented. The undergoing of a genetic test by the applicant will be deemed to be a 'material fact' and therefore the duty of disclosure will apply. If a reliable and relevant genetic test indicates an increase in risk, then the insurer retains the right to increase premium, restrict the terms of acceptance or decline the coverage.' But geneticist and University of Hong Kong dean of science Dr Frederick Leung Chi-ching said it was unethical for insurers to use genetic data and the Government should ban it. While privacy and disability discrimination laws may offer some protection, the Privacy Commissioner's office and the Equal Opportunity Commission has not formed policy or prosecution guidelines. Legislator Bernard Charnwut Chan, who represents the insurance sector, said it was just a matter of time before Hong Kong insurers implemented the code, but admitted there were legitimate privacy concerns. Britain has approved insurers' use of genetic results from a test for Huntington's disease, a fatal hereditary condition. Breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease are expected to be next on the list.