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J Genet Couns. 2010 Apr;19(2):131-47. doi: 10.1007/s10897-009-9265-5. Epub 2009 Oct 23.

Genetic counselors' perceived responsibilities regarding reproductive issues for patients at risk for Huntington disease.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN, USA.


Research indicates that health care professionals' attitudes may affect patients' decisions regarding prenatal Huntington Disease testing, but few studies have sampled genetic counselors. In this qualitative study, genetic counselors described their experiences counseling individuals at risk for HD regarding reproductive decision-making. Five major research questions were investigated: 1) What are genetic counselor responsibilities? 2) What issues arise for patients and counselors? 3) How do counselors reconcile prenatal testing with presymptomatic testing? 4) To what extent are counselors' initial expectations of at-risk patients' beliefs and behaviors met? and 5) What advice would counselors offer to novice practitioners about working with this patient population? Fifteen genetic counselors experienced in counseling individuals at risk for HD participated in a semi-structured phone interview that yielded several themes. For example, participants identified their primary responsibility as information provision; less prevalent were psychosocial support and facilitating decision making. The most common ethical challenge was testing prenatally for HD which also results in presymptomatic testing of minors. Participants were divided about how directive to be in response to this ethical issue and about termination of a gene positive pregnancy.

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