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Genetic Testing: Ethical, Legal, and Religious Issues

Topic Overview

The decision to have genetic tests may involve consideration of ethical, legal, and religious issues.

  • The discovery of a genetic disease may have legal implications. But the discovery of a genetic disease that is not causing symptoms now (such as breast cancer or Huntington's disease) should not affect your future ability to gain employment or health insurance coverage. A law in the United States, called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), protects people who have DNA differences that may affect their health. This law does not cover life insurance, disability insurance, or long-term care insurance.
  • Genetic tests may detect a serious disease in a fetus that will greatly impact its life after birth and impact the lives of caregivers. A pregnant woman who is considering genetic tests may want to consider her ethical, social, and religious beliefs to help her determine the actions she would take if test results are positive.
  • A genetic test result is sensitive information. Your confidentiality should be maintained and the release of information should be limited to those who are authorized to receive it.

If you are thinking about having genetic tests, be sure that you clearly understand the implications of all possible test results before you make your decision about testing. Genetic counseling can help you explore the implications of possible test results.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Siobhan M. Dolan, MD, MPH - Reproductive Genetics
Last Revised November 3, 2011

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