The Genetic Information You Didn't Ask For

Monday, March 25, 2013

needle (Steven DePolo/flickr)

Is it a doctor’s responsibility to tell you if a disease is written on your genetic code? And if so, do you really want him or her to tell you?

Thanks to new guidelines by the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics, this may soon be a reality for many Americans. Last week, the national organization — made up of genetics specialists — published a report urging doctors who sequence a patient's full set of genes to also test them for 24 genetic conditions, and alert the patient, regardless of the patient’s wishes to know or not.

Arthur Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics at the NYU Langone Medical Center sees the new guideline as potentially problematic.

Inga Barnello was genetically tested for breast cancer 12 years ago, and would love to know the 24 diseases that she might have. But she's not sure that doctors should, as a practice, give this information to patients unless they ask for it.


Inga Barnello and Dr. Arthur Caplan

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

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