Stories

Doctors struggle with the ethics of genetic testing for patients

DNA sequencing is producing vast amounts of data, but researchers and doctors often don't know what it means or what can be done about the information it reveals, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: Providers and scientists are grappling with how much information to give patients who have had their genes scanned.

  • Some argue that it's not providers' place to decide to withhold patient information.
  • On the other hand, such information can cause anxiety when it's not "medically actionable," or it can lead patients to get unnecessary or harmful care.

The big picture: Many clinics and studies give patients only a few dozen results that reveal genetic causes for conditions that are treatable.

  • The Mayo Clinic, for example, will look for gene variants that cause heart disease or breast cancer and give those results to patients. But it won't look at variants for early-onset Alzheimer's or Lou Gehrig's diseases.

What we're watching: More providers and research projects are performing broad genetic scans, often for studies or drug development. The question of what to do with the data is only going to become more prominent.

Go deeper: Genetic testing firms share your DNA data more than you think