Parents perspectives on whole genome sequencing for their children: qualified enthusiasm?

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Abstract

Objective

To better understand the consequences of returning whole genome sequencing (WGS) results in paediatrics and facilitate its evidence-based clinical implementation, we studied parents' experiences with WGS and their preferences for the return of adult-onset secondary variants (SVs)—medically actionable genomic variants unrelated to their child's current medical condition that predict adult-onset disease.

Methods

We conducted qualitative interviews with parents whose children were undergoing WGS as part of the SickKids Genome Clinic, a research project that studies the impact of clinical WGS on patients, families, and the healthcare system. Interviews probed parents' experience with and motivation for WGS as well as their preferences related to SVs. Interviews were analysed thematically.

Results

Of 83 invited, 23 parents from 18 families participated. These parents supported WGS as a diagnostic test, perceiving clear intrinsic and instrumental value. However, many parents were ambivalent about receiving SVs, conveying a sense of self-imposed obligation to take on the ‘weight’ of knowing their child's SVs, however unpleasant. Some parents chose to learn about adult-onset SVs for their child but not for themselves.

Conclusions

Despite general enthusiasm for WGS as a diagnostic test, many parents felt a duty to learn adult-onset SVs. Analogous to ‘inflicted insight’, we call this phenomenon ‘inflicted ought’. Importantly, not all parents of children undergoing WGS view the best interests of their child in relational terms, thereby challenging an underlying justification for current ACMG guidelines for reporting incidental secondary findings from whole exome and WGS.

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