Exploring uncertainties regarding unsolicited findings in genetic testing

Vyne van der Schoot*, Eline van der Meer, Marij A. Hillen, Helger G. Yntema, Han G. Brunner, Anke J.M. Oerlemans

*Corresponding author for this work

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Objectives: Non-normative uncertainty (uncertainty about empirical facts) and normative uncertainty (uncertainty about moral values or beliefs) regarding unsolicited findings (UFs) might play an important role in clinical genetics. Identifying normative uncertainty is of special interest since it might guide towards novel directions for counseling practice. This study aims to gain insight into the role of non-normative and normative uncertainty regarding UFs, as expressed by counselees and counselors. Methods: We performed a secondary qualitative analysis of interviews with counselees (n = 20) and counselors (n = 20) who had been confronted with UFs. Following a deductive approach, we used Han et al.’s existing theoretical framework of uncertainty, in which we additionally incorporated normative uncertainty. Results: Major issues of non-normative uncertainty were practical and personal for counselees, whilst counselors’ uncertainty pertained mainly to scientific issues. Normative uncertainty was a major theme throughout the interviews. We encountered the moral conflicts of autonomy vs. beneficence and non-maleficence and of autonomy vs. truthfulness. Conclusion: Non-normative uncertainty regarding UFs highlights the need to gain more insight in their penetrance and clinical utility. This study suggests moral conflicts are a major source of feelings of uncertainty in clinical genetics. Practice implications: Exploring counselees’ non-normative uncertainties and normative conflicts seems a prerequisite to optimize genetic counseling.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108064
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

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