Patient perspectives on the use of categories of conditions for decision making about genomic carrier screening results

Am J Med Genet A. 2018 Feb;176(2):376-385. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.a.38583. Epub 2017 Dec 18.


As expanded genome-scale carrier screening becomes increasingly prevalent, patients will face decisions about whether to receive results about a vast number of genetic conditions. Understanding patient preferences is important to meaningfully demonstrate the ethical goal of respect and support patient autonomy. We explore one possible way to elicit preferences by sorting conditions into categories, which may support patient decision making, but the extent to which categories are helpful is unknown. In the context of a randomized trial of genome sequencing for preconception carrier screening compared to usual care (single disease carrier testing), we interviewed 41 participants who had genome sequencing about their experience using a taxonomy of conditions to select categories of results to receive. We then conducted interviews with an additional 10 participants who were not randomized to genome sequencing, asking them about the taxonomy, their reasons for selecting categories, and alternative ways of presenting information about potential results to receive. Participants in both groups found the categories helpful and valued having a meaningful opportunity to choose which results to receive, regardless of whether they opted to receive all or only certain categories of results. Additionally, participants who received usual care highlighted preparedness as a primary motivation for receiving results, and they indicated that being presented with possible reasons for receiving or declining results for each category could be helpful. Our findings can be used to develop approaches, including the use of categories, to support patient choices in expanded carrier screening. Further research should evaluate and optimize these approaches.

Keywords: carrier testing; genetic condition taxonomy; genome sequencing; patient perceptions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Female
  • Genetic Carrier Screening* / methods
  • Genetic Testing / methods
  • Genome, Human
  • Genomics* / methods
  • Heterozygote*
  • Humans
  • Male