Huntington's disease predictive testing: the case for an assessment approach to requests from adolescents.
Adolescents who are actively requesting Huntington's predictive testing of their own accord pose a dilemma to those providing testing. In the absence of empirical evidence as regards the impact of genetic testing on minors, current policy and guidelines, based on the ethical principles of non-maleficence and respect for individual autonomy and confidentiality, generally exclude the testing of minors. It is argued that adherence to an age based exclusion criterion in Huntington's disease predictive testing protocols is out of step with trends in UK case law concerning minors' consent to medical treatment. Furthermore, contributions from developmental psychology and research into adolescents' decision making competence suggest that adolescents can make informed choices about their health and personal lives. Criteria for developing an assessment approach to such requests are put forward and the implications of a case by case evaluation of competence to consent in terms of clinicians' tolerance for uncertainty are discussed.