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INFORMED CONSENT AND THE MISATTRIBUTED PATERNITY PROBLEM IN GENETIC COUNSELING

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ABSTRACT

When misattributed paternity is discovered in the course of genetic testing, a genetic counselor is presented with a dilemma concerning whether to reveal this information to the clients. She is committed to treating the clients equally and enabling informed decision making, but disclosing the information may carry consequences for the woman that the counselor cannot judge in advance. A frequent suggestion aimed at avoiding this problem is to include the risk of discovering nonpaternity in the informed consent process for counseling. In this paper I argue that such a move does not resolve the problem, because the conflict hinges on the interpretation of equality on which the counselor operates. Given the principles of genetic counseling, neither construal of equality yields a satisfactory solution to the conflict. In fact, I conclude that including nonpaternity in informed consent is not endorsed by either view, and we are still left with the question of what to do should nonpaternity be discovered. I suggest a compromise position concerning disclosure, involving revealing relevant genetic information but withholding nonpaternity when possible.
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Keywords: autonomy; disclosure; equality; genetic counseling; informed consent; misattributed paternity

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-01-01

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