As more research is done on the human genome and more people seek genetic testing, researchers, physicians, genetic counselors and ethicists are struggling with the issues of how to present the new information to patients and whether certain findings should be presented at all.This seems primarily designed to protect adulterous wives.
A paper published Monday in the leading journal Pediatrics tackles a controversial discovery that can come out of genetic testing: when a child’s biological parent turns out to be someone else.
Whether that occurs through a switch at the hospital, a swap of embryos or sexual infidelity, genetic testing can bring such previously unknown facts to light. No matter the cause, it presents an ethical dilemma for medical professionals and one likely to become more common as genetic testing more more widespread. It has triggered a fierce and complex debate about whether parents — or those who might find out they are not true parents — have a right to know such information.
In the Pediatrics paper, ethicists at the University of Pennsylvania argue in favor of letting the parents of patients know that these facts can generally be found in the course of a test but will not be revealed to them.
“Because there isn’t a national consensus,” said co-author Autumn Fiester, director of education in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, “getting a proactive policy that could prevent the harms that are taking place seemed like an imperative to address.”
It is funny how people adamantly deny genetic determinism, but they are scared to learn the truth about their genes. DNA tests are cheap and convenient now, but most people seem to be afraid to get them.