Public attitudes regarding a pilot study of newborn screening for spinal muscular atrophy

Am J Med Genet A. 2013 Apr;161A(4):679-86. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.a.35756. Epub 2013 Feb 26.


A population-based pilot study of newborns screening for a rare genetic condition, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), is being conducted with funding from the National Institutes of Health. The first component of the study is to assess the ethical, legal, and social implications of population-based pilot studies with a focus on public engagement and parental decision-making for the proposed opt-out approach in this research. We conducted focus groups with members of the general public to ascertain attitudes about the pilot study and acceptability of an opt-out approach in two states, Colorado and Utah, where the pilot screening is being proposed (N = 70). We developed an informational video for the project and showed it to the groups prior to the discussion in order to inform participants about population-based research, newborn screening (NBS), permission/consent models, and SMA. Results indicated support for the conduct of pilot studies that is consistent with the current standard of practice for similar population-based programs. There was support for an opt-out approach for parental decision-making; however there was limited parental knowledge about population-based research, NBS and SMA. In general, our participants considered this pilot study to be low risk and of potential benefit to infants and families. The majority of participants were supportive of an opt-out approach with information delivered through various avenues

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Colorado / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / diagnosis
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / epidemiology*
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / psychology
  • Neonatal Screening* / psychology
  • Pilot Projects
  • Population Surveillance
  • Public Opinion*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Utah / epidemiology
  • Young Adult