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PLoS One. 2018 Nov 26;13(11):e0207842. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0207842. eCollection 2018.

Thought leader perspectives on benefits and harms in precision medicine research.

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Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America.


Precision medicine research is underway to identify targeted approaches to improving health and preventing disease. However, such endeavors raise significant privacy and confidentiality concerns. The objective of this study was to elucidate the potential benefits and harms associated with precision medicine research through in-depth interviews with a diverse group of thought leaders, including primarily U.S.-based experts and scholars in the areas of ethics, genome research, health law, historically-disadvantaged populations, informatics, and participant-centric perspectives, as well as government officials and human subjects protections leaders. The results suggest the prospect of an array of individual and societal benefits, as well as physical, dignitary, group, economic, psychological, and legal harms. Relative to the way risks and harms are commonly described in consent forms for precision medicine research, the thought leaders we interviewed arguably emphasized a somewhat different set of issues. The return of individual research results, harm to socially-identifiable groups, the value-dependent nature of many benefits and harms, and the risks to the research enterprise itself emerged as important cross-cutting themes. Our findings highlight specific challenges that warrant concentrated care during the design, conduct, dissemination, and translation of precision medicine research and in the development of consent materials and processes.

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