"I want to know what's in Pandora's Box": comparing stakeholder perspectives on incidental findings in clinical whole genomic sequencing

Am J Med Genet A. 2012 Oct;158A(10):2519-25. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.a.35554. Epub 2012 Aug 17.


Whole genomic sequencing (WGS) promises significant personalized health benefits, and its increasingly low cost makes wide clinical use inevitable. However, a core challenge is "incidental findings" (IF). Using focus groups, we explored attitudes about the disclosure of IF in clinical settings from three perspectives: Genetics health-care professionals, the general public, and parents whose children have experienced genetic testing. Analysis was based on a framework approach. All three groups considered practical and ethical considerations. There was consensus that IF presented challenges for disclosure and a pre-test patient-clinician discussion was vital for clarification and agreement. The professionals favored targeted analysis to limit data handling and focus pre-test discussions on medical relevance. Their perspective highlighted ethical concepts of justice and beneficence. The lay groups' standpoint emphasized autonomy and patients' rights to choose what findings they receive, and that patients accept the consequences of any potential anxiety and uncertainty. The lay groups also felt that it was their responsibility to check genomic developments over time with their original test results and saw patient responsibility as an important part of patient choice.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health
  • Decision Making
  • Disclosure
  • Focus Groups
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Genomics*
  • Humans
  • Incidental Findings*
  • Patient Rights
  • Patients / psychology*