Minimizing risks: the ethics of predictive diabetes mellitus screening research in newborns

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003 Jan;157(1):89-95. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.157.1.89.


Type 1 diabetes mellitus is the most common metabolic disease of childhood. Two states offer newborn screening to identify children with a genetic predisposition to it. It is a voluntary test offered in conjunction with the mandatory newborn metabolic screening. There are no preventive treatments, but children discovered to be at increased risk may participate in follow-up studies to determine whether and when the child develops autoantibodies (preclinical disease) or overt diabetes. This study examined the ethics of predictive genetic research in newborns for type 1 diabetes. Prediction research has serious psychosocial implications, and research designs must account for them. The study concluded that, to minimize harm to infants and their families, (1) if the research does not incorporate a prevention strategy, studies should avoid disclosure of results; and (2) if disclosure is necessary, then the research should be restricted to newborns with an affected first-degree relative.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / diagnosis*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / psychology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Neonatal Screening / ethics*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Factors