Tierasias &
The Tiresias Complex

    An ethical dilemma in genetic counseling arises from the gap between what we know how to diagnose and what we know how to treat. Wexler (1992) call this dilemma has been referred to as the Tiresias Complex.

    In Sophocles' drama Oedipus the King, Oedipus, King of Thebes, consults Tiresias, blind but possessed of the gift of prophecy, to learn why Thebes is ravaged by plague.  Tiresias, who knows the cause is Oedipus' murder of his own father and incestuous marriage to his own mother, is reluctant to reveal his knowledge: 'It is but sorrow to be wise when wisdom profits not.'  Oedipus demands an answer: "Your silence accuses you."  Tiresias replies "Miserable man, I speak, because you accuse me, I speak.... The King is the King's murderer." [In Latin translation:  "Taciturnitas t'accusat .... Miserande, dico, quod me accusas, dico.... Regis est rex peremptor!]

    Wexler (1992) asks:

Do you want to know how and when you are going to die, especially if you have no power to change the outcome?
    Should such knowledge be made freely available?
        How does a person choose to learn this momentous information?
            How does one cope with the answer?

All text material ©2014 by Steven M. Carr