Stakeholder views on secondary findings in whole-genome and whole-exome sequencing: a systematic review of quantitative and qualitative studies

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


  • Michael P. Mackley
  • Ben Fletcher
  • Michael Parker
  • Hugh Watkins
  • Elizabeth Ormondroyd

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Oxford



As whole-exome sequencing (WES) and whole-genome sequencing (WGS) move into routine clinical practice, it is timely to review data that might inform the debate regarding secondary findings (SF) and the development of policies that maximize participant benefit.


We systematically searched for qualitative and quantitative studies that explored stakeholder views on SF in WES/WGS. Framework analysis was undertaken to identify major themes.


Forty-four articles reporting the views of 11,566 stakeholders were included. Stakeholders were broadly supportive of returning "actionable" findings, but definitions of actionability varied. Stakeholder views on SF disclosure exist along a spectrum: potential WES/WGS recipients' views were largely influenced by a sense of rights, whereas views of genomics professionals were informed by a sense of professional responsibility. Experience with genetic illness and testing resulted in greater caution about SF, suggesting that truly informed decisions require an understanding of the implications and limitations of WES/WGS and possible findings.


This review suggests that bidirectional interaction during consent might best facilitate informed decision making about SF and that dynamic forms of consent, allowing for changing preferences, should be considered. Research exploring views from wider perspectives and from recipients who have received SF is critical if evidence-based policies are to be achieved.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-293
Number of pages11
JournalGenetics in Medicine
Issue number3
Early online date1 Sep 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • ethical, legal, and social issues, genomics, genetic counseling, secondary findings, stakeholder perspectives

ASJC Scopus subject areas