The emergence of an ethical duty to disclose genetic research results: international perspectives

Eur J Hum Genet. 2006 Nov;14(11):1170-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejhg.5201690. Epub 2006 Jul 26.


The last decade has witnessed the emergence of international ethics guidelines discussing the importance of disclosing global and also, in certain circumstances, individual genetic research results to participants. This discussion is all the more important considering the advent of pharmacogenomics and the increasing incidence of 'translational' genetic research in the post-genomic era. We surveyed both the literature and the ethical guidelines using selective keywords. We then analyzed our data using a qualitative method approach and singled out countries or policies that were representative of certain positions. From our findings, we conclude that at the international level, there now exists an ethical duty to return individual genetic research results subject to the existence of proof of validity, significance and benefit. Even where these criteria are met, the right of the research participant not to know also has to be taken into consideration. The existence of an ethical duty to return individual genetic research results begs several other questions: Who should have the responsibility of disclosing such results and when? To whom should the results be disclosed? How? Finally, will this ethical 'imperative' become a legally recognized duty as well?

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Duty to Recontact
  • Ethics, Research*
  • Genetics, Medical / ethics*
  • Genetics, Medical / history
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Internationality