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J Empir Res Hum Res Ethics. 2011 Dec;6(4):30-40. doi: 10.1525/jer.2011.6.4.30.

The meaning of genetic research results: reflections from individuals with and without a known genetic disorder.

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Department of Social Medicine, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7240, USA.


In the debate about whether to return individual genetic results to research participants, consideration of the nature of results has taken precedence over contextual factors associated with different study designs and populations. We conducted in-depth interviews with 24 individuals who participated in a genotype-driven study of cystic fibrosis: 9 of the individuals had cystic fibrosis, 15 had participated as healthy volunteers, and all had gene variants of interest to the researchers. These interviews revealed that the two groups had different ideas about the meaningfulness of genetic results. Our findings point to the importance of understanding research context, such as participants' relationship with the researcher and whether they have the disease condition under study, when considering whether to return individual results.

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