, Journal of Patient Centered Research and Reviews, 2022 Oct 18
Su-Ying Liang, Ph.D., Research Economist / Faculty
Purpose:Genetic information has health implications for patients and their biological relatives. Death of a patient before sharing a genetic diagnosis with at-risk relatives is a missed opportunity to provide important information that could guide interventions to minimize cancer-related morbidity and mortality in relatives.
Methods:We performed semi-structured interviews with individuals diagnosed with Lynch syndrome at 1 of 4 health systems to explore their perspectives on whether health systems should share genetic risk information with relatives following a patient's death. An inductive, open-coding approach was used to analyze audio-recorded content, with software-generated code reports undergoing iterative comparative analysis by a qualitative research team to identify broad themes and representative participant quotes.
Results:Among 23 participating interviewees, 19 supported health systems informing relatives about their Lynch syndrome risk while the remaining 4 were conflicted about patient privacy. Most (n=22) wanted their Lynch syndrome diagnosis shared with relatives if they were unable to share and to be informed of their own risk if a diagnosed relative was unable to share. The most common issues noted regarding information-sharing with relatives included patient privacy and privacy laws (n=8), potential anxiety (n=5), and lack of contact information for relatives (n=3). Interviewee perspectives on how health systems could communicate genetic findings generated a consensus: When - a few months after but within a year of the patient's death; How - explanatory letter and follow-up phone call; and Who - a knowledgeable professional.
Conclusions: Interviews demonstrated strong and consistent perspectives from individuals diagnosed with Lynch syndrome that health systems have a role and responsibility to inform relatives of genetic findings following a patient's death.