Ethical issues in the use of genetic information
Advances in molecular genetics promise to deepen our understanding of the biological basis of human behavior and shed light on the pathophysiology of mental illness. Genetic research is likely to improve our ability to develop somatic treatments for psychiatric syndromes as well as to identify targets for environmental intervention. However, population-screening tests for disorders with multifactorial inheritance may offer little clinical benefit to outweigh their potential for misuse. Relevant legal issues surrounding the use of genetic information in psychiatry include the perceived need for laws to prevent insurance and employment discrimination, and concerns about genetic status as a possible excuse for criminal behavior. Relevant ethical issues include threats to patient privacy and confidentiality and the importance of fairly distributing the benefits and burdens of genetic advances.
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