For better or worse, people share much of their DNA with their family members. With genome sequencing getting cheaper and targeted genome analysis becoming more common among cancer and other patients, Science Friday's Ira Flatow explores whether family members have a right to know that information.
Right now, Brigham and Women's Robert Green tells Flatow that the wishes of the patient supersede a physician's concern about family members. If the patient doesn't want to tell his or her family, the doctor can't say anything, though the physician can try to convince the patient otherwise.
And there may be a number of reasons why a person may not choose to disclose, adds the University of Minnesota's Susan Wolf.
The patient might know that there's been a case of unreported adoption in the family or misattributed paternity, or the patient may simply not be on speaking terms with his or her siblings.
"Families are complicated," Wolf says.
In the future, Green says, as sequencing becomes even more ubiquitous, this will actually become less of an issue, as family members themselves will be sequenced on their own. It won't, Wolf points out, completely erase the problem, but may limit it.
They also discuss the ethics of newborn sequencing, the difficulties of interpreting genomic findings, federal funding of medical research, and more.