A Duty To Warn Relatives in Clinical Genetics: Arguably 'Fair just and reasonable' in English Law?
Mitchell C., Ploem MC., Hennekam RCM., Kaye J.
The use of 'next-generation' genetic sequencing technology that allows the sequencing of large parts, or even the entirety, of a patient's genome is advancing rapidly in the UK and around the world. This is set to greatly increase the level of health information that will be of relevance to relatives and the latest medical guidance advises that there is a professional duty to consider warning a patient's relatives of a serious genetic risk in limited circumstances. However, the High Court in ABC v St George's Healthcare NHS Trust  EWHC 1394 (QB), recently found that a legal duty on the part of doctors to warn a patient's daughter of a genetic risk of Huntington's Disease without the patient's consent, was not even 'reasonably arguable' and would not be 'fair, just and reasonable'. This article considers the courts' approach to a duty of care towards 'third parties' in this context and concludes that some form of a duty of care to genetic relatives in clinical genetics is at very least arguably 'fair, just and reasonable'.