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Nat Genet. 1999 Jun;22(2):133-7.

The future of genetic counselling: an international perspective.

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  • 1Medical Genetics Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


The focus of clinical genetics, and thus genetic counselling, is forecast to expand from the diagnosis and prediction of rare, often untreatable conditions, to the prediction of common, often treatable or preventable conditions. Whether this evolution is likely to proceed rapidly or at a pace that permits sensible integration of molecular genetic tools is unknown and a source of debate. It is clear, however, that genetic discoveries will modify the way in which disease and risk are conceptualized. Here, we predict how genetic counselling, specifically for more common diseases, might be provided in the decades to come. We envisage an expansion of professional roles and expertise for many health care providers and highlight the need for counselling practices to become more evidence based. Although we support an evidentiary-based approach to the integration of genetic testing into practice, genetic advance is unlikely to occur in an orderly and standardized manner within countries, much less among different countries and health care systems. Geneticists will become increasingly involved in professional education and policy-making regarding genetic testing and screening programs.

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