BMC Medical Ethics 19 (1):81 (2018)

Beatrice Godard
Université de Montréal
The use of Next Generation Sequencing such as Whole Genome Sequencing is a promising step towards a better understanding and treatment of neurological diseases. WGS can result into unexpected information, and information with uncertain clinical significance. In the context of a Genome Canada project on ‘Personalized Medicine in the Treatment of Epilepsy’, we intended to address these challenges surveying neurologists’ opinions about the type of results that should be returned, and their professional responsibility toward recontacting patients regarding new discovered mutations. Potential participants were contacted through professional organizations or direct invitations. A total of 204 neurologists were recruited. Fifty nine percent indicated that to be conveyed, WGS results should have a demonstrated clinical utility for diagnosis, prognosis or treatment. Yet, 41% deemed appropriate to return results without clinical utility, when they could impact patients’ reproductive decisions, or on patients’ request. Current use of targeted genetic testing and age of patients influenced respondents’ answers. Respondents stated that analysis of genomics data resulting from WGS should be limited to the genes likely to be relevant for the patient’s specific medical condition, so as to limit IFs. Respondents felt responsible to recontact patients and inform them about newly discovered mutations related to the medical condition that triggered the test for as long as they are following up on the patient. Finally, 53.5% of the respondents felt responsible to recontact and inform patients of clinically significant, newly discovered IFs. Our results show the importance of formulating professional guidelines sensitive to the various – and sometimes opposite – viewpoints that may prevail within a same community of practice, as well as flexible so as to be attuned to the characteristics of the neurological conditions that triggered a WGS.
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DOI 10.1186/s12910-018-0320-3
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