Br Med Bull. 2014 Aug 13. pii: ldu017. [Epub ahead of print]
Managing the ethical challenges of next-generation sequencing in genomic medicine.
Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is transforming the conduct of genetic research and diagnostic investigation. This creates new challenges as it generates additional information, including unsought and unwanted information. Nevertheless, this information must be deliberately managed-interpreted, disclosed and then either stored or destroyed.
AREAS OF AGREEMENT:
Handling the process of consent to exome or genome sequencing should include discussion about the possible detection of variants of uncertain significance (VUSs) or incidental findings (IFs) that the patient may prefer not to hear about. A plan should be drawn up that specifies whether and how the patient would be recontacted in the future with new interpretations.
AREAS OF CONTROVERSY:
There is an active debate about which IFs or VUSs should be disclosed to the patient when an exome or genome sequence has been performed, or whether all findings of any possible relevance should always be disclosed. How this is managed has important implications for the initial explanation of the test to the patient and the process of consent. The assumption is often made that all sequence information should be stored, but this may not be sustainable or useful.
Efforts are being made to build a consensus on what 'incidental' information should be disclosed. These policy questions are being addressed in many centres and practices are evolving rapidly.
AREAS TIMELY FOR DEVELOPING RESEARCH:
Those interested in genetics, public health, bioethics and medical ethics may wish to debate these issues and influence future practice in both genetic research and genetic diagnostic services.
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consent; foetal genome; genetic testing; genetic testing of children; incidental findings; next-generation sequencing; variants of uncertain significance
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