Dilemmas of anonymous predictive testing for Huntington disease: privacy vs. optimal care

Am J Med Genet. 1997 Aug 8;71(2):197-201.


Some persons at risk for Huntington disease (HD) seek predictive testing under the protection of anonymity to reduce the risk of insurance discrimination for themselves and their families. While Canadian and European health care systems seem to limit insurance discrimination to life and disability insurance, U.S. residents do not have national health insurance and are concerned about health insurance discrimination. Two persons residing outside Canada requested predictive testing anonymously. Their primary reason for doing so was to avoid the risks of medical insurance discrimination. After a detailed preparatory session and agreement to counselling and to receipt of results in person, we agreed to provide anonymous testing to these persons. One participant, whose psychological assessment was unremarkable, coped well with the predictive testing process and did not have the CAG expansion. The other participant had considerable emotional problems prior to testing, which necesitated postponement of discussion of results and referral for psychiatric assessment and support. Both participants had difficulty maintaining anonymity. The provision of anonymous predictive testing raises several problems. With anonymous testing, clinicians cooperate with participants to exclude insurance companies from information. This may invalidate the contract with insurance companies. A policy response by insurance companies or a universal health care system to protect individuals is preferable. Individuals who request anonymous testing may be precisely those most vulnerable and in need of additional support and counselling. However, the preservation of anonymity is a burden to participants and may frustrate the clinicians' ability to establish rapport in counselling and to provide appropriate follow-up typically available through genetic counselling in predictive testing programs.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Confidentiality* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Confidentiality* / psychology
  • Delivery of Health Care / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Delivery of Health Care / standards*
  • Female
  • Genetic Carrier Screening*
  • Genetic Testing / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Genetic Testing / psychology
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / genetics*
  • Huntington Disease / psychology
  • Insurance Selection Bias*
  • Male
  • Stress, Psychological
  • United States