As science and technology in genetics continue to expand, complex ethical questions arise that require difficult decisions for all concerned. Rather than having ready-made answers, there may be only more challenging questions for patients, families, and healthcare professionals. These complicated questions may have no straightforward, correct answers, thus creating an ethical quandary.
This article discusses some selected ethical issues that occur when patients are considering undergoing genetic testing and counseling, including respecting autonomy and the patient's right to decide, establishing patient–healthcare provider trust, and disclosing private information to others. Several strategies are presented that nurses can use as they assist patients and their families who are facing these challenging ethical dilemmas.
Judith A. Erlen, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor and Doctoral Program Coordinator, University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing and Professor, Center for Bioethics and Health Law, University of Pittsburgh, 440 Victoria Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15261.