Predictive Psychiatric Genetic Testing in Minors: An Exploration of the Non-Medical Benefits

Predictive genetic testing for susceptibility to psychiatric conditions is likely to become part of standard practice. Because the onset of most psychiatric diseases is in late adolescence or early adulthood, testing minors could lead to early identification that may prevent or delay the development of these disorders. However, due to their complex aetiology, psychiatric genetic testing does not provide the immediate medical benefits that current guidelines require for testing minors. While several authors have argued non-medical benefits may play a crucial role in favour of predictive testing for other conditions, little research has explored such a role in psychiatric disorders. This paper outlines the potential non-medical benefits and harms of psychiatric genetic testing in minors in order to consider whether the non-medical benefits could ever make such testing appropriate. Five non-medical themes arise in the literature: psychological impacts, autonomy/self-determination, implications of the biomedical approach, use of financial and intellectual resources, and discrimination. Non-medical benefits were prominent in all of them, suggesting that psychiatric genetic testing in minors may be appropriate in some circumstances. Further research needs to empirically assess these potential non-medical benefits, incorporate minors in the debate, and include normative reflection to evaluate the very purposes and motivations of psychiatric genetic testing in minors.