Purpose: With rapid advances in genetic technologies, new genetic information becomes available much faster today than just a few years ago. This has raised questions about whether clinicians have a duty to recontact eligible patients when new genetic information becomes available and, if such duties exist, how they might be implemented in practice.
Methods: We report the results of a systematic literature search on the ethical, legal, social (including psychological), and practical issues involved in recontacting former patients who received genetic services. We identified 1,428 articles, of which 61 are covered in this review.
Results: The empirical evidence available indicates that most but not all patients value being recontacted. A minority of (older) articles conclude that recontacting should be a legal duty. Most authors consider recontacting to be ethically desirable but practically unfeasible. Various solutions to overcome these practical barriers have been proposed, involving efforts of laboratories, clinicians, and patients.
Conclusion: To advance the discussion on implementing recontacting in clinical genetics, we suggest focusing on the question of in what situations recontacting might be regarded as good standard of care. To this end, reaching a professional consensus, obtaining more extensive empirical evidence, and developing professional guidelines are important.