Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

The Journal of the American Medical Association


American Medical Association


Modern medicine emphasizes treatment of the sick. It is often said that the widespread genetic testing soon to follow the completion of the Human Genome Project will usher in a new era of preventive medicine. Such changes require new ways of thinking, however. For example, there may be nothing clinically wrong with a healthy patient who requests genetic testing, even if the tests reveal disease genes. Since all individuals have genetic skeletons in their closets, it is important to be careful not to confuse having disease genes with having the diseases that they cause. Unfortunately, many in the public have adopted a kind of genetic determinism that sees genes as destiny: for example, having the gene associated with colon cancer means they will develop colon cancer. Physicians tend to be more careful, yet even they are not immune to subtle versions of genetic determinism.


This manuscript was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The published version can be viewed here: