Uncertainty is a certainty in the modern genomics landscape


[Editor’s note: Misha Angrist, the new editor-in-chief of Genome, writes about the uncertainties surrounding genomics in modern medicine.]

In the last few years we have seen the growth of this amazing diagnostic technology and the simultaneous emergence of remarkable therapies for certain genetic and infectious diseases as well as many types of cancer.

It is an exciting but precarious moment. Patients and research participants are steeped in uncertainty: What does this genetic variant mean? Does this drug really work? If it does, then can I endure the side effects? Should I participate in a clinical trial? This one or that one? If I do, then will my insurer cover it?

While the landscape has changed for the better, now and again I still hear geneticists, regulators, and ethicists sounding the alarm about “toxic knowledge” and “lack of actionability” and how only a board-certified medical geneticist has the requisite abilities to help a patient or a research participant navigate his or her DNA…If we insist that heredity is only comprehensible to those with advanced degrees, then we are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But this is where we are. “Medicine’s ground state is uncertainty,” Atul Gawande has written. “And wisdom — for both the patients and doctors — is defined by how one copes with it.” Of this we can be sure.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Sometimes Wrong, Often in Doubt

For more background on the Genetic Literacy Project, read GLP on Wikipedia.

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