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J Commun Disord. 2008 Sep-Oct;41(5):444-57. doi: 10.1016/j.jcomdis.2008.03.001. Epub 2008 Mar 25.

Ethical and social implications of genetic testing for communication disorders.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002, USA.


Advances in genetics and genomics have quickly led to clinical applications to human health which have far-reaching consequences at the individual and societal levels. These new technologies have allowed a better understanding of the genetic factors involved in a wide range of disorders. During the past decade, incredible progress has been made in the identification of genes involved in the normal process of hearing. The resulting clinical applications have presented consumers with new information and choices. Many of the same gene identification techniques are increasingly being applied to the investigation of complex disorders of speech and language. In parallel with gene identification, studies of the legal, ethical and psychosocial impacts of the clinical application of these advances and their influence on specific behaviors of individuals with communication disorders are paramount, but often lag behind. These studies will help to ensure that new technologies are introduced into clinical practice in a responsible manner.


As a result of this activity, the participant will be able to (1) explain the differences between Mendelian and complex forms of inheritance and why these differences complicate the ethical impact of genetic testing, (2) explain how publicly funded genome research through the Human Genome Project, the International HapMap Project and others have examined the ethical, legal and social implications of genome research, (3) list some of the ethical complexities of prenatal, newborn and predictive testing for various genetic disorders and (4) discuss the importance of evidence-based practice to the development of public policy for the introduction and clinical use of genetic tests.

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