Direct-to-consumer genetic testing (DTC GT) has been available for several years now, with varying degrees of regulation across different countries. Despite a restrictive legal framework it is possible for consumers to order genetic tests from companies located in other countries. However, German laypeople’s awareness and perceptions of DTC GT services is still unexplored. We conducted seven focus groups (participants n = 43) with German laypeople to explore their perceptions of and attitudes towards commercial genetic testing and its ethical implications. Participants were critical towards DTC GT. Criticism was directed at health-related, predictive testing, while lifestyle tests were accepted and even welcomed to some extent. Participants expressed strong reservations regarding commercial provision of genetic diagnostics and expressed a lack of trust in respective companies. They preferred non-commercial distribution within the public healthcare system. Participants also expressed high expectations of physicians’ abilities to interpret information obtained via DTC GT companies and provide counseling. Legal restrictions on commercial distribution of genetic tests were opposed, with participants arguing that it should be available to consumers. DTC GT companies are not perceived as trustworthy when compared to the public healthcare system and its professional ethical standards and practices. Laypeople rated general consumer autonomy higher than their own concerns, thus recommending against strong legal regulation. We conclude that medicine’s trustworthiness may be negatively affected if commercial provision is not visibly opposed by the medical professions, while DTC GT companies may gain in trustworthiness if they adapt to standards and practices upheld in medicine.
04 March 2019
“I would rather have it done by a doctor”— laypeople’s perceptions of direct-to-consumer genetic testing (DTC GT) and its ethical implications' by Manuel Schaper, Sabine Wöhlke and Silke Schicktanz in (2018) 22(3) Medicine Health Care and Philosophy 1-10 comments