Genome sequencing in healthcare: understanding the UK general public's views and implications for clinical practice.
Ballard LM., Horton RH., Fenwick A., Lucassen AM.
Technological advances have seen the offer of genome sequencing becoming part of mainstream medical practice. Research has elicited patient and health professional views on the ethical issues genome sequencing raises, however, we know little about the general public's views. These views offer an insight into people's faith in such technologies, informing discussion regarding the approach to consent in clinic. We aimed to garner public views regarding genome sequencing, incidental findings (IFs), and sharing genetic information with relatives. Participants (n = 1954) from the British general public completed a survey, distributed via email. Overall, the public had a positive view of genomic sequencing, choosing 'informative' as the most popular word (52%) and 'family legacy' as the most popular analogy (33%) representing genomic sequencing for them. Fifty-three percent agree that their relative had the right to be told about genetic information relevant to them. Fifty-four percent would expect to be told about IFs whether they had asked for them or not. Clinical practice needs to acknowledge these perspectives and expectations in order to facilitate meaningful discussion during the consent process for genomic tests. We suggest that: (a) optimistic perspectives on the usefulness of genomic tests need to be tempered by discussion in clinic about the likelihood that genomic results might be uninformative, uncertain or unexpected; (b) discussions regarding the familial nature of results are needed before testing: the majority of patients will welcome this and any concerns can be explored further; and (c) a wider discussion is required regarding the consent approach for genomic testing.