Attitudes of genetics professionals toward the return of incidental results from exome and whole-genome sequencing

Am J Hum Genet. 2014 Jul 3;95(1):77-84. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2014.06.004. Epub 2014 Jun 26.


Professional recommendations for the return of results from exome and whole-genome sequencing (ES/WGS) have been controversial. The lack of clear guidance about whether and, if so, how to return ES/WGS incidental results limits the extent to which individuals and families might benefit from ES/WGS. The perspectives of genetics professionals, particularly those at the forefront of using ES/WGS in clinics, are largely unknown. Data on stakeholder perspectives could help clarify how to weigh expert positions and recommendations. We conducted an online survey of 9,857 genetics professionals to learn their attitudes on the return of incidental results from ES/WGS and the recent American College of Medical Genetic and Genomics Recommendations for Reporting of Incidental Findings in Clinical Exome and Genome Sequencing. Of the 847 respondents, 760 completed the survey. The overwhelming majority of respondents thought that incidental ES/WGS results should be offered to adult patients (85%), healthy adults (75%), and the parents of a child with a medical condition (74%). The majority thought that incidental results about adult-onset conditions (62%) and carrier status (62%) should be offered to the parents of a child with a medical condition. About half thought that offered results should not be limited to those deemed clinically actionable. The vast majority (81%) thought that individual preferences should guide return. Genetics professionals' perspectives on the return of ES/WGS results differed substantially from current recommendations, underscoring the need to establish clear purpose for recommendations on the return of incidental ES/WGS results as professional societies grapple with developing and updating recommendations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Child
  • Exome*
  • Genetics, Medical*
  • Genome, Human*
  • Humans
  • Incidental Findings
  • Workforce