Support Mechanisms

Several support mechanisms exist for dealing with the complex decisions and ethical issues arising from the medical application of genetic testing. In the past, much genetic testing has been carried out by medical specialists with disease-specific expertise who have an understanding of the medical, psychosocial, and family implications of diagnoses of particular genetic diseases. Genetic support groups have also been established for education and mutual support among patients and families with genetic disorders. An organization called the Genetic Alliance provides a referral source to connect individuals with appropriate support groups and information about genetic disorders.

Typically, the best resource for an integrated approach to support for patients and families is a genetic counselor. Genetic counselors provide factual education about genetic disease inheritance, how to understand risk and medical probabilities, and the range of options for care. They also provide counseling to help patients and families to clarify and articulate their own values and motivations in order to make the most appropriate decisions. These may be decisions about whether to undergo a genetic test or how they may act on receiving the results of a test. see also Breast Cancer; Genetic Counseling; Genetic Counselor; Genetic Discrimination; Genetic Testing; Human Genome Project; Inheritance Patterns; Pleiotropy; Prenatal Diagnosis.

morbidity incidence of disease pleiotropy genetic phenomenon in which alteration of one gene leads to many phenotypic effects allele a particular form of a gene

Carol L. Freund and Jeremy Sugarman

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