Autism spectrum disorders, risk communication, and the problem of inadvertent harm

John Rossi, Craig Newschaffer, Michael Yudell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are an issue of significant and growing importance to the field of public health. The prevalence of ASDs is rising, and these disorders significantly impact the quality of life of affected persons and their families. Though the etiology of ASDs has long been poorly understood, in recent years, studies are revealing genetic and environmental risk information about ASDs, with much more risk information expected to follow from scientific studies currently underway. The availability of this risk information raises questions about whether and how it should be communicated to individuals, families, and the public at large. One ethical issue of particular concern with ASD risk communication is the possibility that it may cause inadvertent harm to risk message recipients. Here we review the emerging picture of ASD risk, discuss some ways in which it may lead to inadvertent harm, and suggest some future directions for risk communication research and practice that might help to address this issue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-138
Number of pages34
JournalKennedy Institute of Ethics journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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