Health

Genetic counseling and conflict of interest

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanJul 15, 2012 1:33 AM

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Article in The New York Times:

Genetic testing raises some vexing ethical questions, like whether it will cause unnecessary anxiety or lead to more medical procedures, including abortions. Now, as the number of tests and the money to be made from them are exploding, another question is being asked by professionals in the field themselves. Is it ethical for genetic counselors, who advise patients on whether to undergo testing, to be paid by the companies that perform the tests? While it might not always be immediately obvious to patients, some counselors offering them advice in hospitals and doctors’ offices work for the commercial genetic testing companies, not for the hospitals or doctors themselves.

Conflict of interest in anything medical is pretty bad. On the other hand, medical care is expensive. But I want to add something here: the pre-natal screens by Genzyme are really, really, bad value-for-cost. For example, a non-insurance "sticker price" of thousands of dollars for 200 traits. Speaking from personal experience here. Also, don't think you can ever get genetic material sent to Genzyme back. I called and tried this for a few months, and there was no response (I wanted to do typing of tissue myself).

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