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Genetic Testing: Ethical, Legal, and Religious Issues - Topic Overview

The decision to have genetic tests may involve consideration of ethical, legal, and religious issues.

  • The discovery of a genetic disease may have legal implications. But the discovery of a genetic disease that is not causing symptoms now (such as breast cancer or Huntington's disease) should not affect your future ability to gain employment or health insurance coverage. A law in the United States, called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), protects people who have DNA differences that may affect their health. This law does not cover life insurance, disability insurance, or long-term care insurance.
  • Genetic tests may detect a serious disease in a fetus that will greatly impact its life after birth and impact the lives of caregivers. A pregnant woman who is considering genetic tests may want to consider her ethical, social, and religious beliefs to help her determine the actions she would take if test results are positive.
  • A genetic test result is sensitive information. Your confidentiality should be maintained and the release of information should be limited to those who are authorized to receive it.

If you are thinking about having genetic tests, be sure that you clearly understand the implications of all possible test results before you make your decision about testing. Genetic counseling can help you explore the implications of possible test results.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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