Predicting major mental illness: ethical and practical considerations

Predicting major mental illness: ethical and practical considerations
Stephen M. Lawrie, Sue Fletcher-Watson, Heather C. Whalley and Andrew M. McIntosh
British Journal of Psychiatry, 2019; 5(e30) pp 1ā€“5
An increasing body of genetic and imaging research shows that it is becoming possible to forecast the onset of major psychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia before people become ill with ever improving accuracy. Practical issues such as the optimal combination of clinical and biological variables are being addressed, but the application of predictive algorithms to individuals or in routine clinical settings have yet to be tested. The development of predictive methods in mental health comes with substantial ethical questions, including whether people wish to know their level of risk, as well as individual and societal attitudes to the potential adverse effects of data sharing, early diagnosis and treatment, which so far have been largely ignored. Preliminary data suggests that at least some people think predictive research is valuable and would take part in such studies, and some would welcome knowing the results. Future initiatives should systematically assess opinions and attitudes in conjunction with scientific and technical advances.

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