Original Article

Journal of Community Genetics

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 105-112

Is there a doctor in the house?

The presence of physicians in the direct-to-consumer genetic testing context
  • Heidi Carmen HowardAffiliated withCentre for Biomedical Ethics and Law, Katholieke Universiteit LeuvenInstitute of Bio- and Medical Ethics Basel, University of Basel Email author 
  • , Pascal BorryAffiliated withCentre for Biomedical Ethics and Law, Katholieke Universiteit LeuvenDepartment of Medical Humanities, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical CenterDepartment of Clinical Genetics, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center

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Abstract

Over the last couple of years, many commercial companies, the majority of which are based in the USA, have been advertising and offering direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing services outside of the established health care system, and often without any involvement from a health care professional. In the last year, however, a number of DTC genetic testing companies have changed their provision model such that consumers must now contact a health care professional before being able to order the genetic testing service. In discussing the advent of this new model of service provision, this article also reviews the ethical and social issues surrounding DTC genetic testing and addresses the potential motivations for change, some barriers to achieving truly appropriate medical supervision and the present reality of DTC genetic testing for some psychiatric and neurological disorders. Since the advent of these commercial activities, critics have pointed a finger at the lack of medical supervision surrounding these services. The discussion herein, however, reveals how difficult it may be, despite the addition of a physician, to actually achieve adequate medical supervision within the present context of DTC genetic testing.

Keywords

Direct-to-consumer Genetic testing Ethical