Scanning the body, sequencing the genome: Dealing with unsolicited findings

Roel H P Wouters, Candice Cornelis, Ainsley J Newson, Eline M Bunnik, Annelien L Bredenoord

Published: 01/11/2017


The introduction of novel diagnostic techniques in clinical domains such as genomics and radiology has led to a rich ethical debate on how to handle unsolicited findings that result from these innovations. Yet while unsolicited findings arise in both genomics and radiology, most of the relevant literature to date has tended to focus on only one of these domains. In this article, we synthesize and critically assess similarities and differences between “scanning the body” and “sequencing the genome” from an ethical perspective. After briefly describing the novel diagnostic contexts leading to unsolicited findings, we synthesize and reflect on six core ethical issues that relate to both specialties: terminology; benefits and risks; autonomy; disclosure of unsolicited findings to children; uncertainty; and filters and routine screening. We identify ethical rationales that pertain to both fields and may contribute to more ethically sound policies. Considerations of preserving public trust and ensuring that people perceive healthcare policies as fair also support the need for a combined debate.

Full Access Link: Bioethics