Are genetic self-tests dangerous? Assessing the commercialization of genetic testing in terms of personal autonomy

Theor Med Bioeth. 2004;25(5-6):387-98. doi: 10.1007/s11017-004-2047-z.


Should a growing market for genetic self-tests be welcomed or feared? From the point of view of personal autonomy the increasing availability of predictive health information seems promising. Yet it is frequently pointed out that genetic information about future health may cause anxiety, distress and even loss of "life-hopes." In this article the argument that genetic self-tests undermine personal autonomy is assessed and criticized. I contend that opportunities for autonomous choice are not reduced by genetic information but by misperceptions and misunderstandings of the results of genetic tests. Since the interpretation of genetic information is sometimes distorted by the information provided about the genetic products, more attention should be given to deceitful marketing that overblows the utility of genetic products. Yet personal autonomy is reduced neither by genetic tests nor by genetic information and there is consequently no compelling case for the conclusion that genetic self-tests should be prohibited.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making*
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Genetic Counseling* / psychology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Testing* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Marketing of Health Services
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Patient Rights
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Self Care* / methods
  • Truth Disclosure