Bioethics Blogs

PRIM&R Conference Update: Research Ethics and Incidental and Secondary Findings

Recently, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) facilitated a didactic workshop session at the Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R) Advancing Ethical Research Conference. This past Saturday, December 6, Bioethics Commission staff led the workshop IRB Primer: Incidental and Secondary Findings. The presentation provided an overview of the Commission’s recommendations regarding discoveries that lie outside the original aim of a test or procedure, and introduced educational materials to inform and support institutional review board (IRB) members, who often review protocols that include concerns about the ethical management of these findings.

Elizabeth Pike began with a brief introduction to the Bioethics Commission’s report Anticipate and Communicate: Ethical Management of Incidental and Secondary Findings in the Clinical, Research, and Direct-to-Consumer Contexts. She emphasized the Commission’s main message: The ethical management of incidental and secondary findings requires that practitioners in all contexts anticipate and communicate. Practitioners should anticipate the incidental and secondary findings that can arise from a particular test or procedure and communicate how those findings will be managed to a potential recipient. She also noted the role of IRBs in reviewing research, and provided an overview of definitional issues, including what makes findings “incidental” or “secondary,” as well as the types of tests and procedures that commonly produce these findings.

Misti Ault Anderson then discussed the role of researchers. She highlighted various options researchers have to facilitate the ethical management of incidental and secondary findings, including informed consent processes, access to additional expertise, and opportunities to obtain participant preferences and disclose findings in accordance with these wishes.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.