Doctors making mistakes in genetic counseling, study finds
March 19, 1997
Web posted at: 10:35 p.m. EST (0335 GMT)
BALTIMORE, Maryland (CNN) -- A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine
on genetic counseling suggests doctors often make mistakes interpreting the
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions looked at how commercial
lab tests for a rare form of colon cancer were evaluated. Fewer than 20
percent of those tested were given genetic counseling or offered informed
consent before the test. That kind of advice could affect their plans to have
children or their ability to get medical insurance.
Even more troubling, about one-third of the doctors misinterpreted the
test results, concluding that patients weren't at risk for colon cancer when
they might actually get the disease. Genetic counselor Jill Brensinger one of
the researchers, called the results "frightening." A total of 177 patients
from 32 states were studied overall.
The research suggests doctors need to do a better job of genetic
counseling and educating themselves about the new technology, but an
accompanying editorial notes that the researchers themselves may be guilty of
an ethical breach since they didn't get consent from the doctors or patients
But Brensinger said there was no ethical lapse because the Hopkins
researchers were simply functioning as consultants in these cases as they
normally would. She also says no confidential information was leaked and
patients who got the wrong information from their doctor were given the benefit
of correct advice from the Hopkins consultant.
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