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Genetic Testing: Ethical, Legal, and Religious Issues

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Topic Overview

The decision to have genetic tests may bring up 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 get hired for a job or get health insurance. A law in the United States, called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), helps protect people who have DNA differences that may affect their health. But it has some limits. For example, this law doesn't apply to life insurance, disability insurance, or long-term care insurance. And it doesn't protect people who work for companies with fewer than 15 employees.
  • Genetic tests may find a serious disease in a fetus that will greatly impact the child's life and the lives of his or her caregivers. If you are pregnant and are thinking about genetic tests, you may want to think about your own ethical, social, and religious beliefs. What might you do if the tests find a problem?
  • A genetic test result is sensitive information. The results should remain confidential. They should only be released to those who are authorized to receive them.

If you are thinking about having genetic tests, be sure that you clearly understand what effect the test results could have. Genetic counseling can help you think through the decision.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerSiobhan M. Dolan, MD, MPH - Reproductive Genetics

Current as ofOctober 9, 2017

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