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In 2007, a middle-aged British man shot and killed his wife. He was declared mentally incapacitated, convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to hospital care. Two years later, he was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease – an inherited condition that damages nerve cells in the brain, causing both mental and physical deterioration until finally proving fatal – which may have contributed to his diminished mental state at the time of the shooting.

The man made it clear to his doctors and social workers that he did not want his daughters to know about his Huntington’s diagnosis. He said he did not want to distress them further after the trauma he had caused by killing their mother. But around the time of the diagnosis, one of his daughters became pregnant.

Huntington’s is a hereditary disease that is autosomal dominant – if one of your biological parents has the faulty gene, then you have a 50 per cent chance of carrying it as well. And if you have the gene, then you will almost certainly get Huntington’s. A diagnosis can have devastating consequences beyond the initial patient.

… continue reading ‘When you have a serious hereditary disease, who has a right to know?’

Image: © Albert Tercero for Mosaic

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