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Quiz: What Would You Do?

The Scenario:

A 30-year-old woman has been diagnosed with familial adenomatous polyposis, an inherited condition that puts her at extremely high risk of colon cancer. Indeed, most people with this condition, if untreated, will develop the cancer by age 40.

The patient's own mother died of colon cancer at age 32. Despite this grim history, the woman refuses to share the diagnosis with her family, including her four siblings and her husband. In addition, she does not want her two children to be tested for the genetic flaw. Researchers know that the mutant gene responsible for this disorder lies on the long arm of chromosome 5. This flaw results in hundreds or thousands of polyps, small wartlike growths, carpeting the lining of the colon. Some of the polyps will become malignant. The woman's refusal to tell her family puts the genetic counseling center in a quandary. To honor this patient's request might harm the rest of the family. Without appropriate medical intervention, family members with the mutant gene remain at extremely high risk of dying of colon cancer. People who carry this flawed gene undergo frequent screening for suspicious growths in the colon. That aggressive approach slashes their risk of dying of the disease.

The Scenario:

The Question:

Should the counselor disclose the results of the test to the rest of the family despite the woman's objections?

Select Your Answer: YES NO

Something to consider:

Who "owns" the information encoded in a person's genes? Bear in mind the fact that the rest of the family shares a common heritage with this woman.





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