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Direct-to-consumer genetic testing — where should we focus the policy debate?

What are the implications for health systems, children and informed public debate?

Until recently, human genetic tests were usually performed in clinical genetics centres. In this context, tests are provided under specific protocols that often include medical supervision, counselling and quality assurance schemes that assess the value of the genetic testing services. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing companies operate outside such schemes, as noted by Trent in this issue of the Journal.1 While the uptake of DTC genetic testing has been relatively modest, the number of DTC genetic testing services continues to grow.2 Although the market continues to evolve,3 it seems likely that the DTC genetic testing industry is here to stay.

This reality has led to calls for regulation, with some jurisdictions going so far as to ban public access to genetic tests outside the clinical setting.4,5 In Australia, as Nicol and Hagger observe, the regulatory situation is still ambiguous;6 regulation is further…