Personal Views

Genetic counselling—does the terminology matter?

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 08 November 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1241
  1. Hilary J Harris
  1. general practitioner, Manchester

    Counselling for bereavement, marriage guidance, post-traumatic stress, and psychosexual problems is all important to patients with particular needs. And stressed doctors are also making increasing use of counselling services. But for those wishing to reap the benefits of new genetic knowledge the term counselling may be sending the wrong message. Consultation should be used to describe the complete process that follows the recognition that a clinical genetic problem may exist.

    The genetic consultation includes making an accurate diagnosis and risk computation, and requires elements of a standard medical consultation, including taking a family history, examining the patient, and interpreting genetic laboratory results. Genetic counselling, a component of the genetic consultation process, involves imparting accurate, sensitive, and complex information to the patient and family in a non-directive and empathic way, …

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