Alissa, ULJ


cancer, duty to warn, medical malpractice, gene mutations, family privacy, hippocratic oath, genetic testing


The vows of the Hippocratic Oath which include a vow to abstain from sharing a patient's personal information remains an important tenet of medical care today. Physician-patient confidentiality even abstains sharing information with patients' families. However, when medical information affects the health of the patient's relatives, many medical professionals assert that they have a duty to share the information, with or without the patient's consent, particularly in the context of children of patients with genetic diseases and disorders, where forewarning may significantly decrease the risks or increase prevention of the effects of the disease or disorder. Currently, while physicians respect for patients' privacy compels them to refrain from sharing medical information with anyone, physicians must notify health officials when innocent third parties are at risk of certain diseases, most notably this conflict appears recently with HIV-positive individuals, but it may, in the near future, create a similar dilemma with the advent of better genetic testing methods. While physicians currently have no duty to warn children of genetic of, for example, BRCA gene mutations that pose a higher risk of breast cancer, it examines legislation, regulations, and court decisions regarding a physician's duty to warn family members of genetic disease. The article concludes that a balancing test is needed to govern the release of genetic data, specifically with regard to the BRCA mutation.



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