Huntington's Disease on 'House': Would You Take the Ominous Test?


House M.D.There was no super-bizarre mystery illness on the House M.D. premiere, and I should have known something was fishy.


Thirteen has gone rogue, and it's all about that darn test for Huntington's disease that she took last season. A test that came back positive for the degenerative brain disorder.

TV shows love to throw Huntington's into the mix because it creates good drama when a character who may or may not have the disease -- it's hereditary, so the chances are always good that they've had to watch a parent go downhill -- faces the big question: do I take the test?

A few years back it was the WB's (now the CW's) teen hit Everwood, which forced teenage Hannah Rogers (Grey's Anatomy's Sarah Drew) to move to the small town of Everwood, Colorado, so she didn't have to watch her father live through the pain and suffering that accompanies the end stages of the disease. Will she test or won't she took up a serious chunk of time, a bit that was as much public service as it was part and parcel of the usual teen angsty focus of the show.

Now it's Thirteen on House.

So what is the big deal with the test?

Basically, it's a death sentence confirmed or denied. There is currently no cure or treatment for the disease, which slowly eats away at the brain, stealing a person's ability to walk, talk, and reason. Complications eventually result in a gruesome death -- you can literally choke to death with Huntington's.

With the genetic test that shows whether you have the markers for the disease, you can find out if that's your fate. According to the Huntington's Disease Society of America, "More than a quarter of a million Americans have HD or are 'at risk' of inheriting the disease from an affected parent."

Every kid with a Huntington's affected parent has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the gene. Not the best odds, and on House they didn't work out for Thirteen.

That she's run off is sort of no surprise. Because after the test, you're in a holding pattern. Unlike testing for, say, the breast cancer gene and responding by lopping off one's breasts to protect oneself, there is nothing you can do.

It's an untenable position. She's just a TV character, but I can't help feeling a little ache in my stomach knowing there are real people dealing with this. I didn't even want to have tests done for diseases affecting my unborn baby -- unless they were things the doctor could fix in utero.

Would you take the test?


Image via FOX

illness, general health


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knfisch knfisch

no. If there's nothing I could do anyway then why take the test just to spend the rest of your life worrying and wondering when you're going to start loosing your mind? I'd rather just enjoy life ignorantly but blissfully happy then have that knowledge hanging over my head. 

hotic... hoticedcoffee

Yes, I would, as it would be a primary factor in deciding whether or not to have children.  If I had it, I wouldn't want to have children and risk passing on a painful and incurable disease and/or have to put my kid through watching my own end-game. 

nonmember avatar Sarah Taylor

My Dad and Aunt both inherited Huntington's Diease from their Mother. My Dad has had it for 20 years and is at the end stage of the Disease.

Even if I decided not to get tested, I still lived with the knowledge I had a 50:40 chance of getting HD, so still a high probablity. I tested positive 10 years ago and in my early 30s, showing early symptoms. I found the not knowing harder to cope with than knowing and had never regretted getting tested.

Now I can adjust my lifestyle for my future, was able to tell my Husband when we met, what my future would be, so he knew what he was getting into. We have also decided not to have children.

I know the majority of people at risk don't get tested. But for my personally it was the right thing to do.

nonmember avatar Kelley Pardo

My two sisters and brother all have Huntingtons. Our mother passed away from this terrible disease. I recently got the courage to get tested and I do not carry the gene. I was the only lucky one. Everyone is different in regards to getting tested. I always said I would never test but I realized not knowing was starting to have a negative effect on my life. If anyone gets tested just make sure you have the support you need no matter what the outcome. I pray for a cure everyday for my siblings and all of the other families out there facing HD.

nonmember avatar Pojoe

Reasons why people test:

Early treatment of symptoms, like depression.

To insure properly for long term care and life insurance, and living will choices. Also to state what you expect from family and don't expect should you test pos.

To enroll in trials upcoming.

Family planning.

Just need to know.

nonmember avatar Karen Feeley

I was tested 4 years ago and I came back negative. I cried all day when I got the result it was just a relief. My sister has just been tested and she has the gene and is in the early stages of Huntington's. She has 2 children and 2 grandchildren. I think we should all get tested so we can plan our future for families etc. and not put the onus on our future generations. I watched my father die with this. He had 5 siblings and there is only one who has not got it.I think it is good that this is put into tv shows, I want everyone to know about this as much as MS and Parkinsons. Because it is a family thing, many people have never heard of it. Well done Fox.

Linda Owens-Skidmore Clem

my son has huningtons disease it come from his father side he passed away now his son has got bad so i am doin ever thing i know and would do even more if i knew what to do all i know my son got tested at the age of 21 when they tested him it came back yes the first thing my son said i won't to be fix so i will never have a kid to go through now he is 38 and i won't to give him everthing he won'ts because it's hard because he can't talk so he is hard to understand but a mom knows he was the only child i had by his father you don't know love till you care for your child sick and you can't help them i would give my life right now to save him don't be afraid to take the test live your life to the fullest

nonmember avatar Ellen

It's good to read HD is getting this kind of attention. I live in Holland and 2+ years ago we found out my mother has the disease, which explained my grandmother's suicide 35 years ago. Me (and my husband) and my two brothers didn't doubt for a second to get ourselves tested. Better to know for sure than thinking 'might this be it?' every time you forget or trip over something. All three of us carry the gene, so much for a 50/50 chance ... We still want to try for a kid though, having it tested very early in the pregnancy, which may lead to an abortion, because we don't want to pass on this disease. IVF is another possibility, but we chose not to go that route.

Jane Mervar

I did take the test.My husband and 13 year old daughter recently died from this disease,our remaining 2 children are ill with it. juvenile onset,most ppl are unaware,many professionals shy away from the kids.because of this I was asked to test also and I knew it was negative,yet found it emotional.There are things that help early on we have found,its also invaluable not to just give better quality of life,but offer a waitting time of health until they begin RNAi to bring forward a cure,only if juveniles were permitted into trials SERIOUSLY they die quickly and severe issues,also then they can have stemcell treatment to regenerate damaged brain cells,SERIOUSLY...I found through my freinds and family its never over,each step in truely a new begining,time of redefinition.I was thrilled house shared Hd,wished it brought in JHD and some things that do help and might work,and wish often they might use this show to open doors and help our families,I was disapointed in how the genetic testing occured,you can see the magnattude of jhd on youtube...relalize complexities are quite dramatic all the time,and then the surviving sibblings who wont get the disease...the discrimination due to lack of education and awarness...

Amy Deel

I have two adopted children with Juvenile Huntington's Disease. They inherited it from their birthmother. I have had to think about this alot. If it were me, the answer is YES I would take the test. Knowing allows you to be proactive in your health care and in your life. Passing this hideous disease to your child if cruel. If I had the disease, I wouldn't have children. This isn't a disease that can be cured at this time, so you are in fact, guarenteeing your child a horrible death sentence if you pass this disease on to them. I do NOT believe in abortion, so having one, if your baby is positive is NOT an option for me. I for one think it is selfish and cruel to intentionally have children knowing that you are HD positive. Even if your children do not have the gene for HD, watching a parent go through the hideous disease, watching them die a slow and painful death, is just plain and quite simply cruel. I have friends who did not know their spouse had the disease or that it ran in the family, they have kids, and two of the three have tested positive for JHD. Can you imagine? So sad. Yet, every life is worth living, so we love these kids and their dad with HD. We support this mom as she deals with three people with HD. I love my kids and would do anything for them! I would take this disease from them if I could, but I can't. I can trust in God to give them the best life possible while we are blessed with them here on Earth!

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