Informed consent for return of incidental findings in genomic research

Appelbaum, Paul S.; Waldman, Cameron R.; Fyer, Abby; Klitzman, Robert L.; Parens, Erik; Martinez, Josue Natanael; Price II, W. Nicholson; Chung, Wendy K.

Purpose: Researchers face the dilemma of how to obtain consent for return of incidental findings from genomic research. We surveyed and interviewed investigators and study participants, with the goal of providing suggestions for how to shape the consent process.

Methods: We performed an online survey of 254 US genetic researchers identified through the NIH RePORTER database, abstracts from the 2011 American Society of Human Genetics meeting, and qualitative semi-structured interviews with 28 genomic researchers and 20 research participants.

Results: Most researchers and participants endorsed disclosure of a wide range of information about return of incidental findings, including risks, benefits, impact on family members, data security, and procedures, for return of results in the event of death or incapacity and for recontact. However, most researchers were willing to devote 30 min or less to this process and expressed concerns that disclosed information would overwhelm participants, a concern shared by many participants themselves.

Conclusion: There is a disjunction between the views of investigators and participants about the amount of information that should be disclosed and the practical realities of the research setting, including the time available for consent discussions. This strongly suggests the need for innovative approaches to the informed consent process.


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Genetics in Medicine

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July 6, 2020