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J Genet Couns. 2002 Jun;11(3):163-86.

A survey of genetic counselors' strategies for addressing ethical and professional challenges in practice.

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Fairview University Medical Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.


There is limited research about ethical and professional dilemmas that genetic counselors encounter in their practice and their strategies for addressing them. In this study, 454 genetic counselors rated the frequency with which they encounter each of 16 ethical/professional challenges identified and categorized previously (McCarthy Veach P., Bartels DM, LeRoy BS (2001) J Genet Couns 10(2):97-119). Over 40% indicated these issues occurred frequently: patient emotions, diversity, financial constraints, uncertainty, and colleague error. Two hundred and fifty-five respondents provided personal anecdotes describing exceptionally challenging situations and recommended strategies for addressing them. Most of their anecdotes involved informed consent, value conflicts, confidentiality, colleague error, withholding information, and resource allocation. The most frequently recommended strategies were further discussion with patients, consultation with other professionals, and referral to other health sources. Thirty-five respondents were unable to/did not offer strategies. Respondent demographics were not related to frequency of issues, type of anecdote, or recommended strategies. Practice, policy, and research implications are discussed.

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