Ethical issues in genetics


  • Bridget Wilcken

    Corresponding author
    1. Biochemical Genetics and Newborn Screening Departments, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, and the University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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Professor Bridget Wilcken, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Locked Bag 4001, Westmead, NSW 2145, Australia. Fax: +61 29845 3121; email:


Genetic disorders are caused by abnormalities in genes and chromosomes and for the most part have implications for family members, affecting such matters as confidentiality and disclosure to third parties. Genetic testing can be not only diagnostic but also predictive, raising issues of the need for pre-test counselling, protection of children from unwanted testing, and most importantly, the imprecision of interpretation of future risk. The rise in availability of direct-to-consumer testing is a fresh cause for concern, as are the new possibilities in reproductive medicine. New technologies and the falling cost of whole genome sequencing ensure that ethics will be a prominent concern for clinical genetics.