Doctors, lawyers, pharmaceutical companies, life sciences consulting firms, and health care providers are all keeping a very close eye on the development of government regulations of DTC genetic testing.
As of this post, federal regulations differ from state to state with each having its own full or partial regulations or complete restrictions. Only 12 States allow direct to consumer testing, 13 have complete restrictions in place and 24 have partial limitations to what they will allow. At the present time, both New York and California have complete restrictions against direct to consumer genetic testing, and the companies that want to provide these services are wondering if other states will follow their lead. Many of these companies are locating in the U.S. because of these loose regulations. Countries like the U.K. are not as attractive to this business as strict regulations are already in place.
But many consumers are keeping a close watch on these developments too. There are definitely three factions in the game, those who want it, those who don’t and those who agree that partial restrictions are okay.
Advocates of DTC genetic testing feel that it helps consumers take a proactive approach to their own healthcare. Many believe that testing for diseases such as cardiovascular disease, or cholesterol problems would encourage people to seek professional help sooner than they normally would, and in most cases before symptoms even occur. They are also in support of genealogical testing that can alert individuals to health concerns that may be inherited.
For those against DTC testing, the issues are more moral and ethical. Their concern centers on the many emotional, social and even financial factors that could be overlooked without the guidance of a health care professional. Other moral concerns might be that the day would come, for example, when health insurance companies demand genetic testing before approving policies, or employers demand it before hiring for positions.
Those who support partial regulation can see both the good and the bad. Some of the simpler testing could perhaps be left in the hands of the consumer. The more complicated tests, and those with greater impact on the lives of the consumer, should be administered with both the psychological and medical guidance of the appropriate health care professional.
There are also those who fear that a lack of federal regulation would allow genetic testing companies to take advantage of those somewhat desperate consumers and advertise falsely needed services or charge exorbitant fees.
And then, of course there is the argument that without interpretation of test results by competent professionals, consumers could make poor decisions regarding their present and future health care.
It is, to say the least, a most complex issue, and one that is undergoing very close scrutiny by everyone.
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