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Anticipating the Ethical Challenges of Psychiatric Genetic Testing

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Appelbaum, P.S. & Benston, S. Curr Psychiatry Rep (2017) 19: 39. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-017-0790-x


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Purpose of Review

Genetic testing for mental illness is likely to become increasingly prevalent as the science behind it is refined. This article identifies anticipated ethical challenges for patients, psychiatrists, and genetic counselors and makes recommendations for addressing them.

Recent Findings

Many of the ethical challenges of psychiatric genetic testing are likely to stem from failures to comprehend the nature and implications of test results. Recent studies have identified gaps in the knowledge base of psychiatrists and genetic counselors, which limit their abilities to provide patients with appropriate education. A small number of studies have demonstrated the value of counseling in empowering patients to deal with relevant genetic information.


Psychiatrists and other health professionals must be able to assist patients and families in making informed decisions about genetic testing and interpreting test results. Filling their knowledge gaps on these issues will be a critical step towards meeting these responsibilities.

Keywords: genetic testing, ethics, psychiatry, genetic counseling, mental illness, genetics education