Several genes associated with Alzheimer disease (AD) have been localized and cloned; two genetic tests are already commercially available, and new tests are being developed. Genetic testing for AD - either for disease prediction or for diagnosis - raises critical ethical concerns. The multidisciplinary Alzheimer Disease Working Group of the Stanford Program in Genomics, Ethics, and Society (PGES) presents comprehensive recommendations on genetic testing for AD. The Group concludes that under current conditions, genetic testing for AD prediction or diagnosis is only rarely appropriate. Criteria for judging the readiness of a test for introduction into routine clinical practice typically rely heavily on evaluation of technical efficacy. PGES recommends a broader and more comprehensive approach, considering: 1) the unique social and historical meanings of AD; 2) the availability of procedures to promote good surrogate decision making for incompetent patients and to safeguard confidentiality; 3) access to sophisticated genetic counselors able to communicate complex risk information and effectively convey the social costs and psychological burdens of testing, such as unintentional disclosure of predictive genetic information to family members; 4) protection from inappropriate advertising and marketing of genetic tests; and 5) recognition of the need for public education about the meaning and usefulness of predictive and diagnostic tests for AD. In this special issue of Genetic Testing, the PGES recommendations are published along with comprehensive background papers authored by Working Group members.
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