Genetic research and testing in critical care: Surrogates' perspective

Bradley D. Freeman, Carie R. Kennedy, Craig M. Coopersmith, Barbara A. Zehnbauer, Timothy G. Buchman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: Genetic testing is increasingly a component of clinical research in critical illness and has potential for integration into routine care. This study explored the perspectives of surrogate decision-makers (SDMs) for acutely ill patients with respect to social, legal, and ethical aspects of genetic testing. Setting: Medical and surgical intensive care units in an urban tertiary care hospital. Intervention: Questionnaires administered to SDMs for critically ill patients over a 12-month period. Measurements and Main Results: A majority of eligible SDMs participated (117/146; 80.8%). SDMs were more likely to permit genetic testing for purposes of diagnosing a treatable life-threatening disease (114/117; 97.4%) or chronic disease (111/117; 94.9%) than for an untreatable life-threatening illness (95/117; 81.2%) (p < .001). SDMs were receptive to testing to explain familial traits (112/117; 95.7%) or ethnic traits (105/117; 89.7%) (p = .131). SDMs were concerned about potential for economic discrimination, with a majority expressing reluctance to permit testing if employers (93/117; 79.5%), health insurers (90/117; 76.9%), or life insurers (92/ 117; 78.6%) could access results. There was a greater willingness to allow participation in studies in which data were collected anonymously (90/117; 76.9%) vs. nonanonymously (75/117; 64.1%) (p = .04). Finally, SDMs placed greater trust in universities and nonprofit organizations (107/117; 91.4%) than either the federal government (75/117; 64.1%) or pharmaceutical companies (46/117; 39.3%) to perform genetic research (p < .01). Conclusions: SDMs expressed concerns regarding economic discrimination, confidentiality of data, and trust in entities conducting clinical investigation that may represent barriers both to performing studies in which genetic information is collected and to implementation of gene-based technologies in the critical care environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)986-994
Number of pages9
JournalCritical care medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • Clinical trials
  • Critical illness
  • Ethics
  • Genetics
  • Proxy decision-makers


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