Informed Consent in Direct-to-Consumer Personal Genome Testing: The Outline of A Model between Specific and Generic Consent


  • Eline M. Bunnik,

    Corresponding author
    • Address for correspondence: Mrs. Eline M. Bunnik, Erasmus University Medical Center, Department of Medical Ethics and Philosophy of Medicine, Room Ae 3.39, PO Box 2040, 3000 CA Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Email:

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  • A. Cecile J.W. Janssens,

  • Maartje H.N. Schermer

  • Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared


Broad genome-wide testing is increasingly finding its way to the public through the online direct-to-consumer marketing of so-called personal genome tests. Personal genome tests estimate genetic susceptibilities to multiple diseases and other phenotypic traits simultaneously. Providers commonly make use of Terms of Service agreements rather than informed consent procedures. However, to protect consumers from the potential physical, psychological and social harms associated with personal genome testing and to promote autonomous decision-making with regard to the testing offer, we argue that current practices of information provision are insufficient and that there is a place – and a need – for informed consent in personal genome testing, also when it is offered commercially. The increasing quantity, complexity and diversity of most testing offers, however, pose challenges for information provision and informed consent. Both specific and generic models for informed consent fail to meet its moral aims when applied to personal genome testing. Consumers should be enabled to know the limitations, risks and implications of personal genome testing and should be given control over the genetic information they do or do not wish to obtain. We present the outline of a new model for informed consent which can meet both the norm of providing sufficient information and the norm of providing understandable information. The model can be used for personal genome testing, but will also be applicable to other, future forms of broad genetic testing or screening in commercial and clinical settings.