Genomic research results and incidental findings with health implications for a research participant are of potential interest not only to the participant, but also to the participant's family. Yet investigators lack guidance on return of results to relatives, including after the participant's death. In this paper, a national working group offers consensus analysis and recommendations, including an ethical framework to guide investigators in managing this challenging issue, before and after the participant's death.
Secondary findings for adult-onset diseases in pediatric clinical sequencing can benefit parents or other family members. In the absence of data showing harm, it is ethically reasonable for parents to request such information, because in other types of medical decision-making, they are often given discretion unless their decisions clearly harm the child. Some parents might not want this information because it could distract them from focusing on the child's underlying condition that prompted sequencing. Collecting family impact data may improve future (...) policy determinations. (shrink)
Returning genomic research results to family members raises complex questions. Genomic research on life-limiting conditions such as cancer, and research involving storage and reanalysis of data and specimens long into the future, makes these questions pressing. This author group, funded by an NIH grant, published consensus recommendations presenting a framework. This follow-up paper offers concrete guidance and tools for implementation. The group collected and analyzed relevant documents and guidance, including tools from the Clinical Sequencing Exploratory Research Consortium. The authors then (...) negotiated a consensus toolkit of processes and documents. That toolkit offers sample consent and notification documents plus decision flow-charts to address return of results to family of living and deceased participants, in adult and pediatric research. Core concerns are eliciting participant preferences on sharing results with family and on choice of a representative to make decisions about sharing after participant death. (shrink)
ABSTRACT:A wide range of research uses patterns of genetic variation to infer genetic similarity between individuals, typically referred to as genetic ancestry. This research includes inference of human demographic history, understanding the genetic architecture of traits, and predicting disease risk. Researchers are not just structuring an intellectual inquiry when using genetic ancestry, they are also creating analytical frameworks with broader societal ramifications. This essay presents an ethics framework in the spirit of virtue ethics for these researchers: rather than focus on (...) rule following, the framework is designed to build researchers’ capacities to react to the ethical dimensions of their work. The authors identify one overarching principle of intellectual freedom and responsibility, noting that freedom in all its guises comes with responsibility, and they identify and define four principles that collectively uphold researchers’ intellectual responsibility: truthfulness, justice and fairness, anti-racism, and public beneficence. Researchers should bring their practices into alignment with these principles, and to aid this, the authors name three common ways research practices infringe these principles, suggest a step-by-step process for aligning research choices with the principles, provide rules of thumb for achieving alignment, and give a worked case. The essay concludes by identifying support needed by researchers to act in accord with the proposed framework. (shrink)