Objectives: Newborn bloodspot screening (NBS) panels have expanded to include conditions for which treatment effects are less certain, creating debate about population-based screening criteria. We investigated Canadian public expectations and values regarding the types of conditions that should be included in NBS and whether parents should provide consent.
Methods: Eight focus groups (FG; n = 60) included education, deliberative discussion and pre-/post-questionnaires. Data were analysed quantitatively and qualitatively.
Results: Quantitatively, the majority supported NBS for serious disorders for which treatment is not available (95-98, 82%). A majority endorsed screening without explicit consent (77-88%) for treatable disorders, but 62% supported unpressured choice for screening for untreatable disorders. Qualitatively, participants valued treatment-related benefits for infants and informational benefits for families. Concern for anxiety, stigma and unwanted knowledge depended upon disease context and strength of countervailing benefits.
Conclusions: Anticipated benefits of expanded infant screening were prioritized over harms, with information provision perceived as a mechanism for mitigating harms and enabling choice. However, we urge caution around the potential for public enthusiasm to foster unlimited uptake of infant screening technologies.
Keywords: expanded newborn screening; mixed methods; public engagement; public expectations.
© 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.