Title

Genetic risk: The new frontier for the duty to warn

Authors

John Petrila

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2001

Abstract

Mental health professionals usually think of the “duty to warn” in the context of mental illness. However, two state appellate courts have endorsed a duty to warn when children of a patient may be at risk genetically for acquiring the disease of their parents. In these cases, the courts held that a physician's legal obligations extended beyond his or her patient to the patient's children. This article discusses these cases, as well as issues regarding implementation of such a duty and the implications for the physician–patient relationship in a health care environment that will be dominated increasingly by genetics issues. The article concludes that it is premature to apply a duty to warn to the treatment of mental illness and to concerns regarding future criminal behavior. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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