Perspectives and ethical considerations for return of genetics and genomics research results: a qualitative study of genomics researchers in Uganda

BMC Medical Ethics 22 (1):1-9 (2021)
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Abstract

BackgroundThe return of genetics and genomics research results has been a subject of ongoing global debate. Such feedback is ethically desirable to update participants on research findings particularly those deemed clinically significant. Although there is limited literature, debate continues in African on what constitutes appropriate practice regarding the return of results for genetics and genomics research. This study explored perspectives and ethical considerations of Ugandan genomics researchers regarding the return of genetics and genomics research results.MethodsThis was a qualitative study that employed in-depth interviews. Thirty participants were purposively selected based on their expertise as genomics researchers in Uganda. Data were analysed through content analysis along the main themes of the study using a comprehensive thematic matrix, to identify common patterns arising from the narratives. NVivo software 12 was used to support data analysis.ResultsThe return of genetics and genomics research results was generally acceptable to researchers, and some indicated that they had previously returned individual or aggregate results to participants and communities. The main reasons cited for sharing research results with participants included their clinical utility, actionability and overall benefit to society. Ethical considerations for appropriate return of results included a need for effective community engagement, genetic counselling prior to disclosure of the results, adequate informed consent, and proper assessment of the implications of, or consequences of returning of results. However, the approaches to return of results were perceived as unstandardized due to the lack of appropriate regulatory frameworks.ConclusionsThe return of genetic and genomic research results is generally acceptable to researchers despite the lack of appropriate regulatory frameworks. Ethical considerations for return of genetics and genomics research results are highly divergent, hence the need for national ethical guidelines to appropriately regulate the practice.

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