Grappling with genomic incidental findings in the clinical realm.

Chest

PubMedID: 24493507

Hull SC, Berkman BE. Grappling with genomic incidental findings in the clinical realm. Chest. 2014;145(2):226-30.
We have learned a remarkable amount in recent decades about genomics and its potential contributions to human health and medical practice. However, genomic sequencing technology, which is starting to become incorporated into clinical care, also raises ethical challenges. In particular, there has been significant debate about the appropriate management of genomic incidental findings (GIFs), which we define as pathogenic or likely pathogenic test results that are not apparently relevant to the diagnostic indications for which the tests were ordered. Although there is an emerging consensus that clinicians will have at least some obligation to disclose GIFs to patients, the scope of that obligation is unclear. This commentary identifies nuanced issues that clinicians will likely face in the foreseeable future regarding their emerging obligations to disclose clinically actionable GIFs. Will clinicians be expected to look actively for GIFs? Should GIFs for adult-onset disorders be disclosed to children? What obligations will clinicians have to disclose GIFs to family members of deceased patients? What role should informed consent play? There is value to exploring the range of views on these questions at this time, before genomic sequencing has fully matured as a technology, so that clinicians can anticipate how they will respond to the discovery of GIFs once sequencing becomes a more routine part of clinical care. Genomics is ultimately going to play an important role in the practice of pulmonary medicine, and it is important for pulmonologists and other subspecialists to be well informed about what to expect.