Beyond clinical utility: The multiple values of DTC genetics

Appl Transl Genom. 2016 Feb 1;8:4-8. doi: 10.1016/j.atg.2016.01.008. eCollection 2016 Mar.


One point of consensus in the otherwise very controversial discussion about the benefits and dangers of DTC genetics in the health domain is the lack of substantial clinical utility. At the same time, both the empirical and conceptual literature indicate that health-related DTC tests can have value and utility outside of the clinic. We argue that a broader and multi-faceted conceptualization of utility and value would enrich the ethical and social discussion of DTC testing in several ways: First, looking at ways in which DTC testing can have personal and social value for users - in the form of entertainment, learning, or a way to relate to others - can help to explain why people still take DTC tests, and will, further down the line, foster a more nuanced understanding of secondary and tertiary uses of DTC test results (which could very well unearth new ethical and regulatory challenges). Second, considering the economic value and broader utility of DTC testing foregrounds wider social and political aspects than have been dominant in the ethical and regulatory debates surrounding DTC genetics so far. These wider political aspects include the profound power asymmetries that characterize the collection and use of personal genetic data in many contexts.

Keywords: Clinical utility; Direct-to-consumer genetics/genomics; Personal genetics/genomics; Social genomes; Users' attitude and motivations; Value.