Let the individuals directly concerned decide: A solution to tragic choices in genetic risk information

Serena Oliveri, Gabriella Pravettoni, Chiara Fioretti, Mats G. Hansson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Health-care systems as well as legislators and society seem largely unprepared to face and manage the massive production of genetic risk information. Ethics committees and professional bodies usually do not involve the individuals directly concerned in defining guidelines for genetic risk communication. Therefore, they do not always reflect people's needs and preferences. We argue in this article that we currently experience a cultural shift in medicine where individuals' concerns and preferences regarding genetic risk information are playing a more significant role than before, and that this should have some normative implications. We are going toward a situation where individual citizens are approached as consumers by personal genomics companies [Prainsack: Account Res 2011; 18: 132-147]. In clinical and research contexts, individuals are also increasingly informed about their own responsibilities for counterbalancing their genetic risk by making individual health care and lifestyle choices. In this situation, communication of genetic risk information may rather be regulated like traffic and markets in which consumers' decision-making power has a fundamental role in the management and regulation of how a service should be provided, as well as in the creation of policy and legislation. We acknowledge that markets may be different depending on different genetic conditions. For example, genetic risk communication for rare diseases, where a close relationship with clinicians is of paramount significance, should be differently regulated than personal genetic profiles of complex diseases, where contributing risk factors related to lifestyle are modifiable by the individual.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-313
Number of pages7
JournalPublic Health Genomics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Ethics
  • Genetic services market
  • Genetic testing
  • Psychosocial effects
  • Tragic choices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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