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The University of Southampton
Clinical Ethics, Law and SocietyResearch

Research project: The management of certainty and uncertainty in genetic findings - Dormant

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New genetic technologies can map large sections or even the entirety of a patient’s genetic material, resulting in a vast amount of genetic data, which increases the potential of finding a change in a patient’s DNA that is thought to cause or contribute to their symptoms: a genetic diagnosis. In the news, new genetic developments are discussed with intense excitement and often envision a genetic revolution in the making, with the potential of transforming healthcare and predicting our future risks and health profiles. In reality, many ambiguous DNA changes are detected during broad genetic testing that make it difficult for healthcare professionals to establish whether communicating them to patients will be of any use.  

The management of certainty and uncertainty in genetic findings

This research seeks to understand how clinicians and patients perceive, construct, and manage certainty and uncertainty around genetic findings. Gaining insight into these processes is vital in critically reflecting on the promises that genetics is portrayed and perceived to offer. This will be achieved by semi-structured interviews with patients and/or parents of patients who have had genetic testing and have been informed of its outcome, as well as with clinicians in the field of genetics. Observation of clinical encounters during which genetic findings are discussed, such as patient consultations, will also provide a crucial part of the data.

This is a joint project between the University of Southampton and University Medical Centre Groningen.

For further information please contact PhD student and medical anthropologist Julia el Mecky




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