Genetic testing to identify genetic syndromes and copy number variants (CNVs) via whole genome platforms such as chromosome microarray (CMA) or exome sequencing (ES) is routinely performed clinically, and is considered by a variety of organizations and societies to be a “first-tier” test for individuals with developmental delay (DD), intellectual disability (ID), or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, in the context of schizophrenia, though CNVs can have a large effect on risk, genetic testing is not typically a part of routine clinical care, and no clinical practice guidelines recommend testing. This raises the question of whether CNV testing should be similarly performed for individuals with schizophrenia. Here we consider this proposition in light of the history of genetic testing for ID/DD and ASD, and through the application of an ethical analysis designed to enable robust, accountable and justifiable decision-making. Using a systematic framework and application of relevant bioethical principles (beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice), our examination highlights that while CNV testing for the indication of ID has considerable benefits, there is currently insufficient evidence to suggest that overall, the potential harms are outweighed by the potential benefits of CNV testing for the sole indications of schizophrenia or ASD. However, although the application of CNV tests for children with ASD or schizophrenia without ID/DD is, strictly speaking, off-label use, there may be clinical utility and benefits substantive enough to outweigh the harms. Research is needed to clarify the harms and benefits of testing in pediatric and adult contexts. Given that genetic counseling has demonstrated benefits for schizophrenia, and has the potential to mitigate many of the potential harms from genetic testing, any decisions to implement genetic testing for schizophrenia should involve high-quality evidence-based genetic counseling.
© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.