An analysis of social and ethical aspects of presymptomatic testing for Huntington's disease has been carried out, based on data on linked DNA markers, from four major testing centres in different European Community countries (Belgium, Italy, Netherlands, and United Kingdom). Information was available on 603 applicants, with 213 final results given, of which 32% gave an increased risk. A series of specific issues and problems were documented systematically for all applicants, results being given on frequency of occurrence and illustrated by individual case histories. The principal issues could be grouped as problems of inappropriate referral, problems involving relatives, and problems relating to disclosure of results. At least one important problem was encountered in 46% of applicants, emphasising the importance of expert counselling, preparation, and support of applicants, and of close liaison between clinical, counselling, and laboratory staff. The extensive and detailed information available for Huntington's disease from this and other studies will be of considerable value in relation to genetic testing for other late onset genetic disorders and will be even more relevant to Huntington's disease now that specific mutation analysis is possible for this disorder.
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