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In order to provide more personalized health treatments, doctors have been using genetic technology to sequence an individual’s tumor by subtracting the tumor cell’s DNA from the person’s healthy cell DNA. When sequencing the tumor genome, scientists stumble upon genetic variants that may not necessarily pertain to the cancer being studied. These variants include information on risks for cancer, risks for other diseases, or drug toxicity or efficacy.

But how much do patients want to know about themselves? And do doctors have the responsibility of informing their patients of risks for diseases they may contract in the future? What kind of genetic variant is considered “medically actionable” for doctors? How should consent be discussed with the patient? If the patients become informed about their genetic variants, will they have access to genetic counselors who provide services that are generally not covered by health insurance? In addition, the advancement of personalized medicine requires scientists to have access to many genomes which brings up the issue of privacy that could lead to genetic discrimination outside of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (i.e. discrimination by life insurance, disability insurance, and long-term care insurance companies).

There is no general consensus on what is considered medically actionable, but defining it, developing a form of patient consent prior to genome sequencing, standardizing privacy actions, and more are all required with the increased use of genomic sequencing in medicine.

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