AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. August 2000, Volume 2, Number 8.

Ethics Poll

Physicians' Duty to Inform Families about Genetic Risk

The Ethics Poll is a snapshot of the opinions of interested readers.

Several years ago in a noteworthy legal case, a woman who had developed medullary thyroid carcinoma pursued a novel cause of action. She claimed that the physicians who initially treated her mother (who also had medullary thyroid carcinoma) should have known of its inheritability and should have warned her about the possibility of its developing. The physicians claimed that they had no duty toward the daughter because their patient was only the mother and not the daughter. Nowadays, with the ever-increasing frequency of genetic testing physicians and genetic counselors are divided as to whether they should warn relatives of patients who have tested positive for certain kinds of genetic conditions.

Do you think that relatives of patients who test positive for certain kinds of genetic conditions should be told?

See what the AMA Code of Medical Ethics says about this topic in Opinion 2.131 Disclosure of familial risk in genetic testing. American Medical Association. Code of Medical Ethics 2008-2009 Edition. Chicago, IL: American Medical Association; 2008:51-52.

Poll results reflect the opinions of visitors to the site who voluntarily answer the poll questions. Those visitors do not represent a random sample of Virtual Mentor readers. The viewpoints expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.