Conversations About Ethics

Families and the New Era of Genetics: Clinical and Ethical Challenges

John S. Rolland, M.D., M.P.H.

Groundbreaking advances in genomics are identifying genetic components in most major health and mental health conditions.  This poses unprecedented clinical and ethical dilemmas for families and healthcare professionals.  Genetic information is by definition a family issue that will affect everyone as this technology continues to move into mainstream healthcare.

How will family and couple relationships be affected by the ability to peer into their health and mental health futures?How can we foster family resilience with the knowledge of genetic risk and an understanding the influence of epigenetics, involving family and environmental interactions in the expression and course of genetically-influenced conditions?

Dr. Rolland presents a resilience-based family systems model with case illustrations/video to address core issues and socio-cultural influences in decision-making about genetic testing, communication with partners and family members, and living with risk information across the life cycle.  Drawing from his co-authored book, Individuals, Families, and the New Era of Genetics, he will first provide an overview of his model to address the psychosocial challenges of genomic conditions for patients and their families, and then help organize this complex bio-psycho-social-spiritual landscape for clinical practice and research. 

Key issues discussed include: belief conflicts, ethical issues and decisions (e.g. privacy vs. right to know by others at risk, fetal information); couples & childbearing; multigenerational patterns; and behavioral genetics. Guidelines are provided to help families master these complex challenges.  The model’s utility is discussed for preventive screening, family consultation/assessment, treatment planning, and service delivery in a range of healthcare settings.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  1. Understand a family-centered conceptual framework to address the psychosocial implications of the new genetics for health care providers.
  2. Understand some of the key clinical issues for individuals and families regarding the availability of at-risk testing for a rapidly expanding range of common illnesses. 
  3. Understand some of the key ethical issues for families and healthcare professionals facing the new genetics (e.g. right to privacy vs. personal responsibility to disclose genetic information to at-risk family members)
  4. Be able to provide guidelines for effective family-centered biopsychosocial intervention regarding the new genetics.

Continuing Education Information for both the workshop and evening lecture

CME: The UT Health Science Center San Antonio School of Medicine is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
The UT Health Science Center San Antonio School of Medicine designates this live activity for a maximum of 5.50 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s).™ Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.
†Each presentation meets the Texas Medical Board criteria for 1 hour formal continuing medical education involving the study of medical ethics and/or professional responsibility.
CNE: University of Texas Health Science Center At San Antonio is an approved provider of continuing nursing education by the Texas Nurses Association, an accredited approver by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.
The workshop activity provides 5.0 contact hours. The keynote presentation provides 1.16 contact hours.
CEU: The Ecumenical Center for Religion and Health is an approved provider of continuing education by the State of Texas for the following: LPC, LMFT, LSW, LCSW and LMSW.
The workshop provides up to 5.0 ethics continuing education units. The evening lecture provides up to 1.16 ethics continuing education credits.

About Our Speaker: John S. Rolland, M.D., M.P.H.

Dr. Rolland is Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and Executive Co-Director of its affiliate post-graduate training institute the Chicago Center for Family Health.  At CCFH, he directs its unique and internationally recognized Families, Illness, and Collaborative Healthcare Programs.

Dr. Rolland received his training in medicine and psychiatry at the University of Michigan and Yale University and earned a master’s degree from the Harvard School of Public Health. He was the founding Director of the Center for Illness in Families affiliated with Yale University. Widely recognized for his conceptual model, clinical work, and research with families facing serious physical disorders, he has published extensively including his landmark book, Families, Illness, and Disability: An Integrative Treatment Model and co-author of Individuals, Families, and the New Era of Genetics: Biopsychosocial Perspectives.  He has a forthcoming book, Treating Illness and Disability in Families: An Integrative Model.

He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, a former Fellow of the Institute for Social and Policy Studies at Yale, and a member of GAP, the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry.  Past-President of the American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA), his professional honors include AFTA’s Innovative Contributions to Family Therapy Award and the Blanche Ittleson Award from the American Orthopsychiatric Association.

Dr. Rolland is an AAMFT approved supervisor and serves on the Editorial Boards of a number of journals including: Family Process, Journal or Marital and Family Therapy, Families, Systems, & Health, and AIDS Education and Prevention. He serves on the Board of the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association and is a member of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP) on its Family Committee.  He has been active in Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) and Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), and served as President of the Chicago Chapter. In 2000, he developed and co-led a multi-year international project in Kosovo, the Kosovar Family Professional Education Collaborative, addressing family-centered training and service delivery needs in the aftermath of trauma, genocide, and loss.

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Resource List

This resource list brings together websites, videos, audio recordings, books, and articles to supplement the workshop and lecture.

By Our Speaker

Dipping Your Toe (Introductory Information)

Wading Waist High (Intermediate Resources)

Taking a Deep Dive (Advanced Materials)

Access to Materials

Freely available Online
Available through the San Antonio Public Library
For information about how to obtain a San Antonio Public Library card, click here:
Available through the Briscoe Library at the UTHSCSA Faculty
Faculty, students, and staff may access these materials remotely using their Health Science Center log-in. Non-affiliated individuals and members of the general public may access these materials in-person by visiting the library and registering for guest access. Off-site access is not available for non-affiliated individuals and members of the general public due to licensing restrictions.