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Returning genetic incidental findings without patient consent violates basic rights
Date:5/17/2013

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (05/15/2012)Informed consent is the backbone of patient care. Genetic testing has long required patient consent and patients have had a "right not to know" the results. However, as 21st century medicine now begins to use the tools of genome sequencing, an enormous debate has erupted over whether patients' rights will continue in an era of medical genomics.

Recent recommendations from the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG) suggest no. On March 22, the ACMG released recommendations stating that when clinical sequencing is undertaken for any medical reason, laboratories must examine 57 other specific genes to look for incidental findings. These findings must then be reported to the clinician and the patient. In an April 25 "clarification," ACMG said that failure to report these findings would be considered "unethical." The patient has no opportunity to opt-out of the testing of the 57 genes, except to decline all sequencing. The recommendations also apply to children.

In a paper to be published in 'Science 'May 16 online ahead of print, authors Susan M. Wolf, J.D. (University of Minnesota), George J. Annas, J.D., M.P.H. (Boston University), and Sherman Elias, M.D. (Northwestern University) push back against these recommendations, and offer compelling reasons why patient autonomy must remain firmly in place as science advances. Their article on Patient Autonomy and Incidental Findings in Clinical Genomics urges ACMG to reconsider their recommendations. This article is published with a reply by Amy McGuire, J.D., Ph.D. (Baylor College of Medicine) and colleagues.

Wolf, Annas, and Elias argue that, "The ACMG's 'minimum list [of 57 genes]' includes mutations in genes that patients have long been able to refuse testing for, including cancer risk mutations (such as BRCA1) and cardiovascular risk mutations." They point out that "There are many circumstances in which a patient may decline su
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Contact: Martha Coventry
coven002@umn.edu
612-625-2948
University of Minnesota
Source:Eurekalert

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