Genetics assessment at the end of life: Suggestions for implementation in clinic and future research

John Martin Quillin, Joann N. Bodurtha, Thomas J. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Approximately 5%-10% of all cancers and cardiovascular diseases have a significant genetic component. Of the 15 most frequent admission diagnoses for palliative care, at least one third have a significant genetic component which is testable, informative, and potentially life saving to the survivors. Once the patient has died, the chance to test or bank DNA for common inherited conditions such as breast cancer, colon cancer, cardiovascular disease, etc., is gone. Objective: To determine the frequency of genetic conditions for commonly seen palliative care conditions, the availability of testing or DNA banking for future testing, and how genetics assessment is helpful. Design: A case illustration and review of the currently published evidence. Results: Genetic testing fits the accepted model of family-centered palliative care, is ethical, and may lead to life-saving interventions. Risk assessment tools and helpful websites are available. Conclusions: While common genetic conditions should be recognized before end-of-life care, the palliative care health professional may be the only person to recognize the condition before death of the patient and loss of available DNA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-458
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of palliative medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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