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REVIEW ARTICLE
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 134  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 547-551

Ethical issues in genetic counselling with special reference to haemoglobinopathies


5/1 (Old), 8/1 (new), Padmalaya Apartments, Balakrishnan Road, Valmiki Nagar, Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai, India

Correspondence Address:
Vasantha Muthuswamy
[Former Scientist G (Senior Deputy Director-General), Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi, India] 5/1 (Old), 8/1 (new), Padmalaya Apts, Balakrishnan Road, Valmiki Nagar, Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai 600 041
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Genetic counselling is provided in places where genetic tests are carried out. The process involves pre-test counselling as well as post-test counselling to enable the individuals to face the situation and take appropriate decisions with the right frame of mind. Major ethical principles which govern the attitudes and actions of counsellors include: respect for patient autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence, or taking action to help benefit others and prevent harm, both physical and mental, and justice, which requires that services be distributed fairly to those in need. Other moral issues include veracity, the duty to disclose information or to be truthful, and respect for patient confidentiality. Nondirective counselling, a hallmark of this profession, is in accordance with the principle of individual autonomy. High prevalence of haemoglobinopathies with availability of good and sensitive carrier detection tests and prenatal diagnostic techniques makes these good candidates for population screening of carriers along with genetic counselling for primary prevention of the disease. Screening of the extended family members of the affected child, high risk communities and general population screening including antenatal women are the main target groups for planning a Haemoglobinopathy control programme. A critical mass of trained genetic counsellors who have understanding of the ethical issues and its appropriate handling with the required sensitivity is needed in India.


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