The Ethics of Genetic Testing

Genetic testing helps people identify changes in chromosomes, genes, and proteins. It is commonly used to evaluate a number of variations in genetic code, associated with everything from cancer risk to drug metabolism. In other cases, people will use genetic tests to learn about their family history and genealogy.

Genetic testing is performed voluntarily and requires informed consent. The testing is usually conducted by a doctor, medical geneticist, or nurse practitioner, though it can also be done with a self-administered at-home genetic test. Upon completion, an at-home genetic test is mailed to a laboratory for results.

Two measurements are commonly used to assess the validity of genetic test results: analytical and clinical validity. Analytical validity refers to a genetic test’s ability to measure the presence or absence of a gene or genetic change. Clinical validity is used to measure a genetic variant’s relation to the presence, absence, or risk of a specific disease.

The physical risks associated with genetic testing are minimal. Conversely, genetic test results sometimes cause emotional, social, and financial distress, and so should not be performed without counseling from an appropriate medical provider. Genetic tests raise many ethical and accuracy issues as well, which are worth considering.

Genetic testing can help people reduce the risk of certain diseases, but it may also impact a person’s freedom of choice, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). For example, genetic testing is sometimes performed before marriage or on a fetus during pregnancy to analyze the risk of disease and determine what preventative treatment should be taken. And in some countries, couples are required to undergo testing for thalassemia (group of inherited conditions that affect hemoglobin in the blood) before they get married.

While these tests help people identify genetic health risks, this can also lead to stress or conflict with loved ones. To better understand why this would happen, consider how people may feel if they received results indicating they were carriers of genes associated with an incurable or debilitating health condition. They may begin to feel depressed, anxious, and upset about their results, which could also impact their interpersonal relationships.

In addition to the ethical issues surrounding genetic testing, there are many concerns about the accuracy of genetic test results. At-home genetic tests offer no guarantees, despite various claims made by at-home genetic test providers. For instance, one at-home genetic test company claimed that its test could help people determine which medications to take, while another stated that the test could deliver accurate dieting advice. An at-home genetic test company even indicated that its test could help people determine their susceptibility to certain diseases. To date, research has shown that all of the aforementioned at-home genetic test claims are invalid on one level or another.

People may pursue genetic testing and other solutions to quickly identify potential medical issues, but there is no quick-fix solution to most genetic conditions. At Achieve Concierge, we account for the personal mental wellness, work, and lifestyle of our patients, and this allows us to provide a total wellness experience unlike any other. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with Achieve Concierge, please contact us online or call us at (619) 393-5871.

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