Genetic Testing: Ethical, Legal, and Religious Issues

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Topic Overview

The decision to have genetic tests may bring up 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 get hired for a job or get health insurance. 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 find a serious disease in a fetus that will greatly impact the child's life and the lives of his or her caregivers. If you are pregnant and are thinking about genetic tests, you may want to think about your own ethical, social, and religious beliefs. What might you do if the tests find a problem?
  • A genetic test result is sensitive information. The results should remain confidential. They should only be released to those who are authorized to receive them.

If you are thinking about having genetic tests, be sure that you clearly understand what effect the test results could have. Genetic counseling can help you think through the decision.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Siobhan M. Dolan, MD, MPH - Reproductive Genetics

Current as ofFebruary 20, 2015