Understanding the impact of genetic testing for inherited retinal dystrophy
Combs R., McAllister M., Payne K., Lowndes J., Downes SM., Devery S., Webster AR., Moore AT., Ramsden S., Black G., Hall G.
The capability of genetic technologies is expanding rapidly in the field of inherited eye disease. New genetic testing approaches will deliver a step change in the ability to diagnose and extend the possibility of targeted treatments. However, evidence is lacking about the benefits of genetic testing to support service planning. Here, we report qualitative data about retinal dystrophy families' experiences of genetic testing in United Kingdom. The data were part of a wider study examining genetic eye service provision. Twenty interviewees from families in which a causative mutation had been identified by a genetic eye clinic were recruited to the study. Fourteen interviewees had chosen to have a genetic test and five had not; one was uncertain. In-depth telephone interviews were conducted allowing a thorough exploration of interviewees' views and experiences of the benefits of genetic counselling and testing. Transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis. Both affected and unaffected interviewees expressed mainly positive views about genetic testing, highlighting benefits such as diagnostic confirmation, risk information, and better preparation for the future. Negative consequences included the burden of knowledge, moral dilemmas around reproduction, and potential impact on insurance. The offer of genetic testing was often taken up, but was felt unnecessary in some cases. Interviewees in the study reported many benefits, suggesting genetic testing should be available to this patient group. The benefits and risks identified will inform future evaluation of models of service delivery. This research was part of a wider study exploring experiences of families with retinal dystrophy.European Journal of Human Genetics advance online publication, 13 February 2013; doi:10.1038/ejhg.2013.19.