policy & Publications
NSGC Code of Ethics
A Code of Ethics is a document which attempts to clarify and guide the conduct of a professional so that the goals and values of the profession might best be served.
- Preamble & Introduction
- SECTION I: Genetic Counselors Themselves
- SECTION II: Genetic Counselors and Their Clients
- SECTION III: Genetic Counselors and Their Colleaques
- SECTION IV: Genetic Counselors and Society
Genetic counselors are health professionals with specialized education, training, and experience in medical genetics and counseling. The National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) is the leading voice, authority and advocate for the genetic counseling profession. As such, the NSGC is an organization that furthers the professional interests of genetic counselors, promotes a network for communication within the profession, and deals with issues relevant to human genetics. With the establishment of this code of ethics the NSGC affirms the ethical responsibilities of its members and provides them with guidance in their relationships with self, clients, colleagues, and society. NSGC members are expected to be aware of the ethical implications of their professional actions and to adhere to the guidelines and principles set forth in this code.
A code of ethics is a document that attempts to clarify and guide the conduct of a professional so that the goals and values of the profession might best be served. The NSGC Code of Ethics is based upon the relationships genetic counselors have with themselves, their clients, their colleagues, and society. Each major section of this code begins with an explanation of one of these relationships, along with some of its values and characteristics. These values are drawn from the ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice. Although certain values are found in more than one relationship, these common values result in different guidelines within each relationship.
No set of guidelines can provide all the assistance needed in every situation, especially when different relationships appear to conflict. Therefore, when considered appropriate for this code, specific guidelines for prioritizing the relationships have been stated. In other areas, some ambiguity remains, allowing for the experience of genetic counselors to provide the proper balance in responding to difficult situations.
Genetic counselors value competence, integrity, veracity, dignity, and self-respect in themselves as well as in each other. Therefore, in order to be the best possible human resource to themselves, their clients, their colleagues, and society, genetic counselors strive to:
- Seek out and acquire sufficient and relevant information required for any given situation.
- Continue their education and training.
- Keep abreast of current standards of practice.
- Recognize the limits of their own knowledge, expertise, and therefore competence in any given situation.
- Accurately represent their experience, competence and credentials, including training and academic degrees.
- Acknowledge and disclose circumstances that may result in a real or perceived conflict of interest.
- Avoid relationships and activities that interfere with professional judgment or objectivity.
- Be responsible for their own physical and emotional health as it impacts on their professional performance
The counselor-client relationship is based on values of care and respect for the client’s autonomy, individuality, welfare, and freedom. The primary concern of genetic counselors is the interests of their clients. Therefore, genetic counselors strive to:
- Serve those who seek services regardless of personal or external interests or biases.
- Clarify and define their professional role(s) and relationships with clients, and provide an accurate description of their services.
- Respect their clients’ beliefs, inclinations, circumstances, feelings, family relationships and cultural traditions.
- Enable their clients to make informed decisions, free of coercion, by providing or illuminating the necessary facts, and clarifying the alternatives and anticipated consequences.
- Refer clients to other qualified professionals when they are unable to support the clients.
- Maintain information received from clients as confidential, unless released by the client or disclosure is required by law.
- Avoid the exploitation of their clients for personal advantage, profit, or interest.
The genetic counselors’ relationships with other genetic counselors, students, and other health professionals are based on mutual respect, caring, cooperation, and support. Therefore, genetic counselors strive to:
- Share their knowledge and provide mentorship and guidance for the professional development of other genetic counselors, students and colleagues.
- Respect and value the knowledge, perspectives, contributions, and areas of competence of colleagues and students, and collaborate with them in providing the highest quality of service.
- Encourage ethical behavior of colleagues.
- Assure that individuals under their supervision undertake responsibilities that are commensurate with theirknowledge, experience and training.
- Maintain appropriate limits to avoid the potential for exploitation in their relationships with students and colleagues.
The relationships of genetic counselors with society include interest and participation in activities that have the purpose of promoting the well-being of society and access to health care. Therefore, genetic counselors, individually or through their professional organizations, strive to:
- Keep abreast of societal developments that may endanger the physical and psychological health of individuals.
- Promote policies that aim to prevent discrimination.
- Oppose the use of genetic information as the basis for discrimination.
- Participate in activities necessary to bring about socially responsible change.
- Serve as a source of reliable information and expert opinion for policymakers and public officials.
- Keep the public informed and educated about the impact on society of new technological and scientific advances and the possible changes in society that may result from the application of these findings.
- Support policies that assure ethically responsible research.
- Adhere to laws and regulations of society. However, when such laws are in conflict with the principles of the profession, genetic counselors work toward change that will benefit the public interest.
Adopted 1/92 by the National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc.; Revised 12/04, 1/06