Genetic and genomic tests are increasingly used in every day medical practice to clarify or predict clinical diagnoses. Where results indicate possible familial inheritances it can be difficult for practitioners to know how they balance their duty of confidentiality to one person with a duty to alerting others –who do not yet know about a familial risk- of preventative actions they might take. The recent ABC versus St Georges and others (EWHC 455 (QB)2020) case considered such a scenario: Were the clinicians looking after a man with the genetic condition Huntington’s disease negligent for not alerting his daughter to this fact, when the man himself did not give consent for this?
In this talk I will consider how the ruling in the case might affect future clinical practice, and consider ways in which family medicine already facilitates appropriate communication without a breach of confidence. I will also reflect on potential tensions between confidentiality and harm to others in other areas of medicine, using contact tracing in the current pandemic as an example.