Aims: To explore the views of the Belgian public on various topics surrounding genetics and genetic testing (GT).
Materials and methods: A written questionnaire was administered to visitors of the annual cartoon festival in Knokke-Heist, Belgium, during the summer of 2014. The main theme of the festival was challenges and progress in human genetics and it was attended by more than 100,000 visitors.
Results: The survey was completed by 1182 respondents, resulting in a demographically diverse sample with a mean age of 48.5 years. Our respondents expressed moderate interest in predictive GT, with 39.1% willing to learn about their predisposition to diseases through GT and 49.5% indicating interest in getting tested exclusively for treatable/preventable diseases. We observed higher interest in GT for reproductive purposes, such as preconception screening for recessive disorders (53.8%) and prenatal GT (60.7%). A substantial minority (46.4%) of the respondents were worried that GT could further stigmatize people with disabilities, while 39.7% believed that carrier screening for recessive diseases would lead to an inferior image of people affected by them.
Conclusion: Paying due attention to the attitudes, beliefs, and concerns of the general public is important to ensure ethically sound and socially acceptable implementation of new genetic technologies.
Keywords: attitudes; genetic testing; questionnaire; survey.