Journal of Community Genetics

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 105–112 | Cite as

Is there a doctor in the house?

The presence of physicians in the direct-to-consumer genetic testing context
  • Heidi Carmen Howard
  • Pascal Borry
Original Article


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.


Direct-to-consumer Genetic testing Ethical 



HCH is funded by the European Commission FP7 Marie Curie initiative, and PB is funded by the Research Fund Flanders (FWO).

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interests to disclose


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Biomedical Ethics and LawKatholieke Universiteit LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Institute of Bio- and Medical Ethics BaselUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Medical Humanities, EMGO Institute for Health and Care ResearchVU University Medical CenterAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of Clinical Genetics, EMGO Institute for Health and Care ResearchVU University Medical CenterAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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