Book review. The status of the family in law and bioethics: the genetic context
Child and Family Law Quarterly, 19, (2), .
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In The Status of the Family in Law and Bioethics Roy Gilbar addresses the topical and ethically difficult considerations surrounding the communication of both diagnostic and predictive genetic data to patients' family members. Focusing on the legal and ethical obligations of doctors and their patients, Gilbar analyses two familial tensions: between patients' interests in maintaining confidentiality and those of their relatives to be informed; and vice versa, where patients' interests lie in providing the information but their relatives' interests may lie in not being informed. An illustrative example of the latter is when a patient has been informed that they have an incurable genetically inherited condition (for example Huntington's disease) and may wish to disclose this to their relatives in order to discuss the diagnosis and gain vital support at a difficult time. However, this disclosure carries a concurrent risk of harm to the relatives (increased anxiety and so on), which has led commentators to debate whether there ought to be a legal right not to know.1 Adopting a liberal–communitarian framework for this analysis, he examines English (or my preferred phrase, Anglo–Welsh) medical law and ethics pertaining to these familial tensions. Consequently, there is a specific focus on the duty of care in tort law and the law of confidentiality; and with regard to ethics, a consideration of bioethical commentaries, professional guidelines and ethical codes. Comprising 270 pages, Gilbar's book is divided into six chapters which I will address in turn.
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