Private health services that bypass the need for GPs through provisions such as DNA profiling, “body MOT” scans and the sale of drugs online are to be investigated.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics consultation will invite both experts and members of the public to contribute views and information during the inquiry, with a view to publishing a report by 2010.
The study hopes to work out any ethical, social, legal and economic problems that need to be addressed, as well as look into measures that may be taken by industry and the government.
Professor Christopher Hood, who chairs the working party leading the consultation, said: “Cutting out the GP may sometimes be a good thing, providing us with convenience, privacy and control over our health. But there is not much regulation of these new services and we may be getting information that causes more harm than good.”
The Nuffield Council experts say that the danger of misleading or inaccurate results is present when firms offer to carry out DNA profiles in order to glean information about susceptibility to complex conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
They say that these health problems can have numerous causes and the genetic factors involved are often far from clear, and warn that people may be falsely reassured or prompted to seek unnecessary medical attention.
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