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J Med Ethics 38:525-526 doi:10.1136/medethics-2012-100557
  • Commentaries

Resolving the impasse on predictive genetic testing in minors: will more evidence be the solution?

  1. Nicola Kerruish
  1. Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nicola Kerruish, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Otago, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin 9013, New Zealand; nikki.kerruish{at}otago.ac.nz
  1. Contributors Both authors contributed equally to the writing of this manuscript.

  • Received 6 March 2012
  • Accepted 16 March 2012
  • Published Online First 19 April 2012

Discourse ethics when applied to the realm of medical practice seeks to construct a rational basis on which clinical decisions can be made by building a position based on iterative argument. What happens then, when such a process fails? In this paper, Mand et al report a detailed chronology and mapping of how arguments for and against the predictive genetic testing of minors for adult-onset conditions have evolved over time. They note that positions have changed very little, and suggest that because the same core arguments are cited again and again with only subtle variations and little demonstrable rapprochement between opposing camps, that a different approach is required. They contend that more evidence is necessary but tellingly also concede that resolution in this manner may only be arrived at for a subset of assertions made by the pro and contra parties. A core set of the contestable ‘value claims’ apparently lie beyond the reach of empirical investigation.1

The appeal for empirical research is laudable and may progress certain aspects of the debate. However, in considering what knowledge can be expected to be acquired from such studies some broader …