Prevention Science

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 310-318

First online:

Ethics in Prevention Science Involving Genetic Testing

  • Celia B. FisherAffiliated withFordham University Center for Ethics Education Email author 
  • , Erika L. Harrington McCarthyAffiliated withFordham University Center for Ethics Education

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The Human Genome Project and rapid technological advances in genomics have begun to enrich prevention science’s contributions to understanding the role of genetic factors in the etiology, onset and escalation of mental disorders, allowing for more precise descriptions of the interplay between genetic and non-genetic influences. Understanding of ethical challenges associated with the integration of genetic data into prevention science has not kept pace with the rapid increase in the collection and storage of genetic data and dissemination of research results. This article discusses ethical issues associated with (1) decisions to withhold or disclose personal genetic information to participants; (2) implications of recruitment and data collection methods that may reveal genetic information of family members; and the (3) nature and timing of informed consent. These issues are presented within the contexts of adult and pediatric research, longitudinal studies, and use of biobanks for storage of genetic materials. Recommendations for research ethics decision-making are provided. The article concludes with a section on justice and research burdens and the unique ethical responsibilities of prevention scientists to ensure the new genomic science protects the informational rights of participants, their families and communities.


Ethics Genetics Prevention Genetic testing Disclosure Confidentiality Informed consent Biobanks Pediatric research Longitudinal research Justice