President’s Bioethics Commission Releases Report on Incidental Findings

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on December 12, 2013

“Researchers conduct a memory study, scan a participant’s brain, and find more than they bargain for:  a tumor.  What do the researchers owe the participant? What does the participant want to know?  This is an increasingly common scenario for practitioners across contexts and for recipients of unexpected results that can be discovered through a variety of procedures and tests. Today the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) offered analysis and guidance on this issue and released its report Anticipate and Communicate: Ethical Management of Incidental and Secondary Findings in the Clinical, Research, and Direct-to-Consumer Contexts  …Incidental findings – whether or not we can anticipate them – give rise to a wide range of practical and ethical challenges for recipients and practitioners. Emerging medical technologies, changing cost structures, and evolving medical practice have increased remarkably the likelihood of discovering incidental findings in the clinic, research, and commercial direct-to-consumer contexts. Such findings can be lifesaving, but also can lead to uncertainty and distress if they are unexpected or identify conditions for which no effective treatment is available.”

 

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