Genetic testing and mental health: the model of Huntington disease

Janet K. Williams, University of Iowa
D. L. Schutte


Genetic aspects of mental health disorders are being identified through human genome and family research. Gene discovery makes diagnostic and presymptomatic testing possible. The discovery of a gene mutation for Huntington Disease (HD) enables at-risk persons to request presymptomatic genetic testing. When HD genetic testing is offered through HD testing centers, a multi-visit protocol is followed in which education and counseling are provided for persons considering the option to have HD gene testing. A case study illustrates the clinical and ethical issues regarding privacy and disclosure as well as the personal and family consequences of gene mutation knowledge. Analysis of the impact of genetic knowledge on persons being tested for HD provides a model for the integration of emerging genetic information into mental health nursing practice for other mental health disorders. CO 2000 Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Article published September 30, 2000