Experiences with obtaining informed consent for genomic sequencing

Am J Med Genet A. 2015 Nov;167A(11):2635-46. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.a.37256. Epub 2015 Jul 21.


Despite the increased utilization of genome and exome sequencing, little is known about the actual content and process of informed consent for sequencing. We addressed this by interviewing 29 genetic counselors and research coordinators experienced in obtaining informed consent for sequencing in research and clinical settings. Interviews focused on the process and content of informed consent; patients/participants' common questions, concerns and misperceptions; and challenges to obtaining informed consent. Content analysis of transcribed interviews revealed that the main challenges to obtaining consent related to the broad scope and uncertainty of results, and patient/participants' unrealistic expectations about the likely number and utility of results. Interviewees modified their approach to sessions according to contextual issues surrounding the indication for testing, type of patient, and timing of testing. With experience, most interviewees structured sessions to place less emphasis on standard elements in the consent form and technological aspects of sequencing. They instead focused on addressing misperceptions and helping patients/participants develop realistic expectations about the types and implications of possible results, including secondary findings. These findings suggest that informed consent sessions should focus on key issues that may be misunderstood by patients/participants. Future research should address the extent to which various stakeholders agree on key elements of informed consent.

Keywords: genetic counseling; genetic testing; genomic sequencing; informed consent; qualitative research.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Genome, Human*
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent*
  • Perception
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods*