J Med Ethics 37:673-676 doi:10.1136/jme.2010.041111
  • Ethics
  • Paper

The right not to know: the case of psychiatric disorders

Open Access
  1. Heather Widdows
  1. Philosophy Department, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, UK
  1. Correspondence to Lisa Bortolotti, Philosophy Department, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK; l.bortolotti{at}
  • Received 5 November 2010
  • Revised 4 April 2011
  • Accepted 27 April 2011
  • Published Online First 9 June 2011


This paper will consider the right not to know in the context of psychiatric disorders. It will outline the arguments for and against acquiring knowledge about the results of genetic testing for conditions such as breast cancer and Huntington's disease, and examine whether similar considerations apply to disclosing to clients the results of genetic testing for psychiatric disorders such as depression and Alzheimer's disease. The right not to know will also be examined in the context of the diagnosis of psychiatric disorders that are associated with stigma or for which there is no effective treatment.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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