Should We Offer Genomic Results to a Research Participant’s Family, Including After Death?

Web banner for 2014 Conference on Genomic Privacy
November 6, 2014 -
8:30am to 5:00pm
Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey Center


If researchers discovered a member of your family has a gene that increases risk of some types of cancer, would you want to know? If you learned you have such a gene, would you want it revealed to your relatives? These real-world dilemmas pit personal privacy against the health concerns of family members. And the explosion of research on genomics – sometimes looking at a research participant’s entire genome and identifying many gene variants of concern – makes this a pressing problem.

There is little guidance right now for researchers on how to balance an individual’s privacy with family health concerns. And in many studies, especially on cancer genomics, the research participant may die, leaving researchers with no idea whether they can reach out to offer family members the deceased individual’s results. These policy gaps can leave siblings, children, and other relatives without crucial information about their own potential health conditions.

This conference grew out of the first NIH-funded project dedicated to this emerging area of bioethics. Experts grappled with whether researchers should share results of genomic sequencing with family members and, if so, how best to do it. Policy recommendations from this conference could ultimately be applied across the nation, having a major impact on the future of genomics in U.S. health care. What’s at stake is how we as a society balance individual privacy against family access in the new era of genomic sequencing.

2014 conference panel

Check out news coverage for this conference:

Supported by the National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute and National Human Genome Research Institute) grant #R01-CA154517

Continuing Legal Education (CLE)
A request for Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits was filed. 

Office of Continuing Professional Development
The University of Minnesota is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The University of Minnesota designates this live activity for a maximum of 7.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Other Healthcare Professionals Statement
Other Healthcare Professionals who participate in this CME activity may submit their Statements of Participation to their appropriate accrediting organizations or state boards for consideration of credit. The participant is responsible for determining whether this activity meets the requirements for acceptable continuing education.

Sponsored by:

  • University of Minnesota’s Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Center for Transdisciplinary ELSI Research in Translational Genomics at the University of California, San Francisco.


Consortium on Law and Values logo -- graphic only
Mayo clinic logo
 UCSF logo