Ethics, Genetic Testing, and Counseling: A Patient Guide

Genetic testing and counseling is a rapidly growing and fascinating field of medicine. Though testing is relatively new, it has been the topic of many government policies and practices involving genetics and testing for various conditions like sickle cell anemia.   Every newly developed genetic test brings several issues regarding health, medicine, and social policy to the forefront. Issues include which tests should be administered, how tests are implemented, and how results will be used.   Several adult-onset disorders of genetic origin are progressive, and the health consequences are long-term. When at risk, those possibly affected can benefit from genetic testing. Ethically, issues come into play when the disorder is treatable, with no preventative measures available. 

Genetic testing is classified into three different forms:

  • Diagnostic testing usually is used in prenatal and newborn screenings to discover current disease circumstances. 
  • Carrier testing reveals if individuals carry specific traits from one parent or both. 
  • Predictive testing identifies if someone has a genetic mutation that may eventually lead to a delayed-onset medical condition such as breast cancer or Huntington’s disease.

Genetic testing presents enormous moral and ethical repercussions. Respect for an individual’s autonomy, or right to self-governance, includes their right to make independent, informed decisions about testing and the right to control knowledge of the details of the outcome. It also implies the rights of that person to manage the genetic material and its use for future purposes. This includes storage for further analysis in a registry file or DNA bank. 

To date, the development of genetic testing has raised numerous concerns regarding autonomy, privacy, equity, and confidentiality. This is due to the context in which tests are taken and the use of test results, and additionally, the type of institutes that house the genetic information. A person who tests and is found to be at high risk for a genetic condition may not be able to get health insurance because of the likelihood of medical bills that would cost the insurance company a hefty fee. Also, parents may reject children, both during pregnancy and when diagnosed during childhood,  based on the abnormality of genes. They may be unwilling to put forth financial resources to benefit these children. 

There are numerous benefits for those who understand the repercussions of genetic testing and counseling. Before pregnancy, this service can simplify concerns about factors like infertility and conditions that can affect the baby during childhood. Testing and counseling can inform many health conditions such as psychiatric, cardiovascular, and various cancer. Genetic testing can provide relief regarding uncertainty and educated decisions regarding family health management. The results can lead to options for prevention, treatment, and monitoring of familial diseasesNevada Surgery & Cancer Center is your detailed genetic counseling and testing source. Our goal is to comfort patients and aid in decisions that will affect their medical future. Our facility in Las Vegas treats numerous cancers, from the colon to gynecological to rectal cancer. Our professional staff will help you understand your results and develop a medically proficient plan through testing. We also provide all-inclusive counseling for risk factors such as BRCA genes, Lynch syndrome,  Hereditary Polyposis Syndrome (FAP), and more.