Ethics in the era of genetic testing

While I’m at home trying desperately to figure out how to set adequate parental protections on out Internet browsers and restrict my kids’ access to any and all Showtime original series on streaming Netflix, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine are posing some challenging ethical questions physicians are ever more likely to face. What if you tested a patient’s genes and found that he or she was likely the child of an incestuous relationship? What would your ethical responsibility be?

The BCM researchers write in the Feb. 12 issue of The Lancet that they have witnessed several of these cases while performing genomic tests on children. The topic is broad, with various implications regarding the age of the parents at the time of conception, their relational status, the possibility of criminal behavior or abuse, not to mention the emotional stigma and distress involved for the patient.

With all the promise genetic testing holds for understanding, identifying, and treating various conditions and disease states, the ethical ramifications are staggering, and this is just one particularly interesting and puzzling question to explore. Check out the article: http://tinyurl.com/47k7unt. We’d be interested to know your thoughts, so use the comment feature. What are your thoughts on the ethics of finding evidence of incestuous parentage through genetic testing, or just the ethics of genetic testing in general?

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One Response to “Ethics in the era of genetic testing”

  • LloydVW,MD:

    I for one am not interested in becoming liable for not being the medical police. However this is a difficult situation. I know the information was incidental to the testing, but an abusive situation demands we as patient advocates act in the best interest of our patients. But after this there are coming some more gray area situations. In England they noted that about 20% of births in one group were not the offspring of the father of record. Are we obliged to reveal that? They are going to be financially and legally responsible for this child who you know is not theirs. Or if the Alzheimer gene incidentally shows up on a patient that is an airline pilot. I think we need some direction or policy from the AAFP on this and not just wait for some other group to tell us what to do or think

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