A survey of genetic counselors' strategies for addressing ethical and professional challenges in practice

Matthew A. Bower, Patricia M Veach, Dianne M. Bartels, Bonnie S LeRoy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


There is limited research about ethical and professional dilemmas that genetic counselors encounter in their practice and their strategies for addressing them. In this study, 454 genetic counselors rated the frequency with which they encounter each of 16 ethical/professional challenges identified and categorized previously (McCarthy Veach P, Bartels DM, LeRoy BS (2001) J Genet Couns 10(2):97-119). Over 40% indicated these issues occurred frequently: patient emotions, diversity, financial constraints, uncertainty, and colleague error. Two hundred and fifty-five respondents provided personal anecdotes describing exceptionally challenging situations and recommended strategies for addressing them. Most of their anecdotes involved informed consent, value conflicts, confidentiality, colleague error, withholding information, and resource allocation. The most frequently recommended strategies were further discussion with patient, consultation with other professionals, and referral to other health sources. Thirty-five respondents were unable to/did not offer strategies. Respondent demographics were not related to frequency of issues, type of anecdote, or recommended strategies. Practice, policy, and research implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-186
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Genetic Counseling
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a grant from the Josiah Macy, Jr., Foundation. The authors gratefully acknowledge the input of the Editor, Bob Resta, and the reviewers who offered helpful suggestions, particularly concerning the implications of the findings.


  • Ethical and professional issues
  • Ethical strategies
  • Genetic counseling


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