Risks involved in Genetic Testing
One of the serious drawbacks of genetic testing is the difficulty in interpreting the results. The tests are not designed to determine-
- if a person will develop the symptoms of a disorder
- The severity of the symptoms
- The order of progress.
Genetic tests for late-onset disorders such as Alzheime's disease have been highly commercialized and are the topic of discussions. These tests are carried out on healthy and presymptomatic people some of whom are identified as being susceptible due to a family history. The tests give only a probability for developing the disorder, and interpreting this probability is a topic of debate.
Genetic testing is prone to provoke a considerable amount of anxiety especially when asymptomatic people test positive and also due to the fact that genetic diseases can only be managed and not cured. It may increase the level of stress and strain family relationships.
Another limitation of genetic testing is the possibility for laboratory errors, probably due to sample misidentification, contamination of the chemicals used for testing, or other factors. This is, of course, a risk inherent to all laboratory procedures.
Physical risks of genetic testing include the methodology employed in prenatal diagnosis like amniocentesis and chorionic villi sampling. Although risks are reduced to the barest minimum at the hands of experts, there is an element of risk for miscarriage involved.
Genetic testing may also increase the risk for discrimination and social stigmatization. Genetic discrimination at work place and by insurance companies is another area of concern.
Despite its drawback, genetic testing can be considered a revolutionary scientific technology that has changed the way a disease can be diagnosed and managed.