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‘Direct-to-consumer genetic testing needs preparation’
  • By Kim Eun-young
  • Published 2019.10.11 15:12
  • Updated 2019.10.11 15:12
  • comments 0

The government has decided to deregulate direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing of serious diseases, drawing consumers’ attention to the new service.

However, physicians expressed concerns over the sudden deregulation, saying the nation has yet prepared fully to prevent mishaps.

The Korean Society for Genetic Diagnostics held a symposium on “Genetic Testing – Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications” at the Kim Koo Museum’s Convention Hall in Seoul on Thursday.

DTC genetic testing allows non-medical institutions to give consumers direct access to their genetic information. The government’s approval for DTC genetic testing, without a proper system in place, made doctors struggle with various issues, experts said.

The Korean Society for Genetic Diagnostics held a symposium on “Genetic Testing – Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications” at the Kim Koo Museum’s Convention Hall in Seoul, Thursday.

At the symposium, physicians said Korea needs more thorough preparation for DTC genetic testing.

Professor Lim Ji-sook of the Department of Laboratory Medicine at the Catholic University of Korea Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital said insurance companies are tying DTC genetic testing with their insurance policies to increase sales. “As genetic testing of diseases is not available in Korea, insurers advertise that they would request overseas institutions for testing and customize insurance policies based on the testing results,” she said.

If such insurance products cause problems, consumers will have no place other than Korea Consumer Agency to file a complaint, Lim went on to say. Local doctors, unaware of the procedure of DTC genetic testing, will find it impossible to explain about testing results, she said.

“Experts should take the lead in making guidelines for genetic testing,” Lim said.

Another expert said doctors should set rates for providing consultations on DTC genetic testing results.

“I had some patients who came to the genetic testing consultation clinic and asked for consultation on their genetic testing results. In Korea, however, there is no guideline on who should provide consultation for genetic testing and how to do it,” said Professor Kim Do-hoon of the Laboratory Medicine Department at Keimyung University Dongsan Medical Center.

“We haven’t set rates for consulting fees yet. When genetic testing becomes popular, the demand for consultation will rise explosively,” he said. “Thus, the government should mandate the genetic testing and consultation service to be provided by doctors.”

Kim Na-kyung, a professor at the Department of Law at Sungshin Women’s University, said it was essential to predict how consumers would react to the genetic testing results. “The government allowed the genetic testing service for people’s ‘wellness,’ but some people regard it as a means to prevent diseases. We need efforts to make guidelines for explanations of genetic testing and consultations,” she said.


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