Genetic testing technology and services are developing at an incredible speed. However, it is often difficult if not impossible for politicians and health officials to keep track of the implications for both professionals and patients.
In June this year, the OECD approved new guidelines to provide a framework for countries seeking to develop their genetic testing services. EuroGentest, a major EU-funded project dedicated to harmonising genetics testing services across Europe, will hold today in Poland the first of a series of roadshows aimed at encouraging EU member states to implement the new OECD guidelines.
Poland is an ideal starting point for a variety of compelling reasons, according to roadshow host and leading Polish geneticist, Professor Michal Witt: “Firstly we have a scarcity of legal regulations in Poland regarding genetic testing, matched by a reluctance of politicans and legislators to get involved in what is admittedly a difficult area. We also have the contrast of highly professional state-funded clinical genetics centers being challenged by a growing number of commerical labs, clinics and companies offering genetic testing with no further interpretation of results or counselling. And of course there is a growing interest in and demand from the public for genetic testing. We therefore hope that this EuroGentest-sponsored meeting will encourage Polish politicians to commit to being one of the first countries to fully implement the OECD guidelines as soon as possible.”
The key messages are being delivered to an audience of geneticists, healthcare professionals, politicans and other stakeholders by leading European authorities. Dr David Barton, Chief Scientist at the National Centre for Medical Genetics in Dublin, Ireland who was personally involved in drawing up the OECD guidelines, will stress the importance of proper quality assurance schemes being in place for genetic testing to ensure public confidence in results. Helena Kääriäinen, Research Professor, the National Institute of Public Health, Finland will explain that: “genetic counselling is an integral part of genetic testing, as patients should understand why the test is offered and what are the implications of the result to the individual and the family.” She also pointed out that the Council of Europe is preparing an additional protocol on genetic testing to its Bioethical Convention; which all members are expected to adopt. Finally, Alastair Kent from leading patient interest group GIG will talk on the need to consult with patients when devising services: “Testing needs to deliver information that is comprehensive and accurate in a timely, user friendly way if patients are to be able to make informed decisions that they can live with afterwards.”
Following the roadshow in Poland, EuroGentest intends to hold similar meetings across the EU and associated member states.
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