September 27th, 2020

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Legal Liabilities Associated with Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancers
Authors:  Jennifer M. P. Neff, D.O., Gwyn Richardson, M.D., J.D., and John Y. Phelps, M.D., J.D., L.L.M.
  OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this clinical alert article is to bring attention to possible legal pitfalls associated with diagnosing and treating patients with hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.

STUDY DESIGN: We searched LexisNexis and Westlaw search engines, which are commercial legal search engines used by law students, attorneys, paralegals, and judges. Legal cases, law reviews, and newspaper articles were reviewed using LexisNexis and Westlaw search engines. In preparation for this review, the following keywords were used: BRCA testing, hereditary cancer, prophylactic oophorectomy, prophylactic mastectomy, and genetic testing. This is an emerging area of professional liability; accordingly, few authorities exist at this time. Through the search, a total of 5 legal cases were identified.

RESULTS: The results of this review show that physicians are already held accountable for genetic testing and related guidelines. Thus, it is in the best interest of the prudent physician to be aware of these guidelines and how to apply them in a way that is protective against malpractice.

CONCLUSION: As genetic testing continues to grow and impact medical decision-making, physicians need to be aware of testing guidelines and how to appropriately apply testing in general practice.
Keywords:  breast cancer; genes, BRCA1; genetic testing; hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome; ovarian cancer; prophylactic mastectomy; prophylactic oophorectomy
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