Emanuel & Robert Hart Professor of Bioethics, Chair, Department of Medical Ethics and Director, Center for Bioethics University of Pennsylvania, USA
There is some hype. The chance of seeing any real commercially viable gene testing in doctors' office or home kits in the next two years is slim. But the future of testing is very bright. As more diseases and conditions are reliably correlated with predictive accuracy and more information is obtained about who will and will not respond well to medications this field will become huge in medicine. I think we are still five or six years away however.
Not much sharing likely in this highly competitive industry. I think it will mean a proliferation of tests, test kits and different testing locations. Not sure how this will all sort out but it will stand in the way of efficient testing and may undermine consumer interest if there are too many competitors with small test niches.
The information given out must be accurate and we don’t have good international standards for genetic testing.
The information given out must be accurate and we don’t have good international standards for genetic testing. Nor do we have agreed upon standards for counselling consumers. There will be liability issues surrounding false negatives and positives as well as misunderstanding by consumers of complex probabilistic information. There are also issues about the need for privacy protection which is not firmly in place and the handling of 'genetic records'. The stigmatization of racial, ethnic or family groups by testing is also a danger.
The industry should be addressing these issues right now. Ethics is the biggest obstacle to the future success of genetic testing.
Patients will in the short run rely on their doctors for advice about all this, but direct to consumer advertising will begin and then it will be a free-for-all while the good drives the bad out of the marketplace.
See my book Smart Mice Not So Smart People (Rowman Littlefield) which came out six months ago for more on genetic testing and ethics!