Ethical Dilemma in Genetic Privacy Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  3
Wordcount:  662 Words
Date:  2022-03-10


The potential for ethical problems has gone up, especially with increasing interest in genetic testing and Human Genome and therapies. Medicine and nursing have the ethical responsibility to protect the privacy of patients and to do no harm (Erlich & Narayanan, 2014). On the other hand, the family members also deserve to be treated fairly, for instance when it comes to receiving information. The purpose of this paper is to relate certain provisions of the ANA Code of Ethics to a particular ethical dilemma (genetic privacy). Also, the paper will provide some resources that can help deal with the dilemma.

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ANA Code of Ethics

There are two provisions of the ANA Code of Ethics that relate to this paper's dilemma. These are provision 1 and 2. These provisions are "The nurse practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and unique attributes of every person" and "The nurse's primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, community, or population" (Olson & Stokes, 2016, p. 10).

Genetic Privacy

In this scenario, a nurse performed genetic testing on an adolescent, and the ethical question of confidentiality arose. The genome of the adolescent was sequenced, and the nurse came across some clinically actionable variants after performing the genetic testing. The biggest issue the nurse was facing is whether this information should be disclosed to the third. In this case, the third part is the family members. These family members might also be affected by the problem that has been diagnosed in the adolescent. The argument will be compelling if the patient consents to the disclosure of the problem. However, when a patient wants the information to be kept confidential, the biggest challenge is what should be carried out by a nurse. One will be torn in between an obligation to breach confidentiality or not to violate it in such an event.

In essence, what has to be weighted keenly here is the privacy rights against the rights of third parties relating to being alerted about the risks they face, or they may face. Biological studies state that genes are shared. This is often the case in biological family members, such as parents and offsprings. Therefore, clinical results, such as the diagnosis for the adolescent, can be argued to belong to all the family members that are affected by the problem. The first provision calls for the nurse to respect the dignity and worth of everyone. This term everyone, in this case, refers to the patient and the family members. However, the second provision argues that the commitment of the nurse is normally on the patient. This brings the problem of whether to maintain confidentiality or disclose genetic testing information to individuals affected by the issue. It has been determined that most patients will refuse to undergo genetic testing if they know that the results will be revealed to others (Erlich & Narayanan, 2014). Due to this, most geneticists are very cautious when it comes to implementing the policy of automatic disclosure.

Resources for Dealing With the Dilemma

Clinical agencies now have many resources that can help when they are faced with issues of an ethical dilemma. These resources play a significant role when they are properly utilized. Some examples of resources that can help in dealing with the issue of the dilemma are books and journals on ANA code of ethics, pediatric nursing journal, Journal of pediatric health care, and journal of health ethics.


The human genome has increased the potential for ethical problems. However, nurses should find a balance when dealing with this issue. This should be carried out in line with the provisions of the ANA Code of Ethics. The dignity and worth of everyone should always be respected.


Erlich, Y., & Narayanan, A. (2014). Routes for breaching and protecting genetic privacy. Nature Reviews Genetics, 15(6), 409-421.

Olson, L. L., & Stokes, F. (2016). The ANA code of ethics for nurses With interpretive statements: a resource for nursing regulation. Journal of Nursing Regulation, 7(2), 9-20.

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