Back Off Medical Paternalists—People Can Handle the Truth


Ignorance is bliss. Or so some physicians and bioethicists seem to think when it comes to genetic testing. The New York Times is reporting a new study which finds:

A genetic test that can find an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease does no psychological harm to people who take it, even if they test positive for a risky gene, a new study finds. 

The results challenge views long held by the medical establishment, which has discouraged people from being tested, arguing that the test is not definitive, that it may needlessly frighten people into thinking a terrible disease is hanging over them and that testing is pointless anyway because there is no way to cure or prevent the dementia caused by Alzheimer's.

"There has been this extraordinary worry that disclosing risk was going to devastate people," said Dr. Robert C. Green, a professor of neurology, genetics and epidemiology at Boston University, and the lead author of the study, which is being published on Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine. "This has upended those assumptions."

Of course, the "assumptions" were made by a self-appointed medical priesthood who think that the little people can't handle "occult" genetic information. Knowing whether or not I carry the genes that increase my risk of Alzheimer's is one of the chief reasons I took a genetic screening test ( the good news is I don't). 

See my column in which I consider the idea that if there were a test that could tell you the exact day you would die (barring accidents), would you take it? I would.

See whole New York Times article on what they researchers were testing and what they found  here.