The role of beneficence in clinical genetics: Non-directive counseling reconsidered

Mark A Yarborough, Joan A. Scott, Linda K. Dixon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


The popular view of non-directive genetic counseling limits the counselor's role to providing information to clients and assisting families in making decisions in a morally neutral fashion. This view of non-directive genetic counseling is shown to be incomplete. A fuller understanding of what it means to respect autonomy shows that merely respecting client choices does not exhaust the duty. Moreover, the genetic counselor/client relationship should also be governed by the counselor's commitment to the principle of beneficience. When non-directive counseling is reexamined in light of both these principles, it becomes clear that there are cases in which counselors should attempt to persuade clients to reconsider their decisions. Such attempts are consistent with non-directive counseling because, while respecting the clients' decision-making authority, they insure that clients act with full knowledge of the moral consequences of their decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-149
Number of pages11
JournalTheoretical Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • autonomy
  • beneficence
  • non-directive counseling
  • pre-symptomatic genetic testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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