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Public Health Genomics. 2010;13(3):181-90. doi: 10.1159/000240966. Epub 2009 Sep 22.

Consent for newborn screening: the attitudes of health care providers.

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University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont., Canada.



As newborn screening (NBS) expands to meet a broader definition of benefit, the scope of parental consent warrants reconsideration.


We conducted a mixed methods study of health care provider attitudes toward consent for NBS, including a survey (n = 1,615) and semi-structured interviews (n = 36).


Consent practices and attitudes varied by provider but the majority supported mandatory screening (63.4%) and only 36.6% supported some form of parental discretion. Few health care providers (18.6%) supported seeking explicit consent for screening condition-by-condition, but a larger minority (39.6%) supported seeking consent for the disclosure of incidentally generated sickle cell carrier results. Qualitative findings illuminate these preferences: respondents who favored consent emphasized its ease while dissenters saw consent as highly complex.


Few providers supported explicit consent for NBS. Further, those who supported consent viewed it as a simple process. Arguably, these attitudes reflect the public health emergency NBS once was, rather than the public health service it has become. The complexity of NBS panels may have to be aligned with providers' capacity to implement screening appropriately, or providers will need sufficient resources to engage in a more nuanced approach to consent for expanded NBS.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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