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February 9, 2005

Duty to Warn About Hereditary Disease Risks

Author Affiliations

Letters Section Editor: Robert M. Golub, MD, Senior Editor.

JAMA. 2005;293(6):676. doi:10.1001/jama.293.6.676

To the Editor: Dr Offit and colleagues1 conclude that, in general, physicians have a duty to advise patients with genetic disorders of an obligation to inform their relatives, but that physicians do not have a duty to breach patient confidentiality to warn patients’ relatives directly. This is consonant with the beliefs of the public.2 The authors argue cogently that the precedent of the Tarasoff case3 may not apply from a legal perspective because confidentiality still has an important role in medical practice (now strengthened by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations), and genetic disorders may not have a high penetrance and may not be treatable.

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