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September 8, 2010

Exclusion of Genetic Information From the Medical RecordEthical and Medical Dilemmas

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Division of Psychiatry, Law, and Ethics, and HIV Center, Columbia University, New York, New York.

JAMA. 2010;304(10):1120-1121. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1303

Increasingly, physicians and patients face dilemmas of whether to exclude genetic information from medical charts, posing critical challenges for practice, research, policy, and education. Physicians and patients are obtaining more genetic information, yet medical records are rapidly becoming electronic, threatening confidentiality. Tensions thus arise between potential medical benefits vs social risks of including information. Use of genetic testing is rapidly increasing through clinicians and direct-to-consumer marketing. Direct-to-consumer tests may be definitive or show only slightly increased disease probabilities, but with advances may have increasing clinical utility. Several institutions have also discussed including whole genome data in medical records. Genetic discrimination has occurred with α1-antitrypsin deficiency, Huntington disease, and other mutations,1 although the extent remains unclear,2 partly because such discrimination can be subtle or difficult to prove. Patients may be passed over for promotion or marginalized, but not fired.3

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