Research biobank participants attitudes towards genetic exceptionalism and health record confidentiality

Victoria Dortenzio, Rosamond Rhodes, Amanda Merkelson, Hetanshi Naik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding attitudes towards genetic exceptionalism and confidentiality is important in guiding policies regarding special protections for genetic/genomic information stored in electronic health records (EHR). The goals of this study were to determine biobank participants’ attitudes towards genetic exceptionalism and confidentiality and whether those attitudes are related to their preference for return of genetic results. An online questionnaire was distributed to patients with an EHR and email address who had previously enrolled in the BioMe Biobank program. Most participants responded with similar levels of concern in scenarios involving the use of genetic information and other types of health information, suggesting that participants want similar protections for genetic data as other types of sensitive health information, particularly mental health and family history records. Of the 829 respondents, the majority had genetic exceptionalist views when directly asked, even though their concerns about confidentiality were similar for their genetic information and other health information. There were no differences in genetic exceptionalist views between those who had a documented preference to have genetic results returned and those who did not. Notably, for many participants, their recall of preference did not align with their documented preference. The majority of biobank participants were most anxious about the loss of confidentiality for genetic, mental health, and family history information, indicating that certain types of health information are considered more “sensitive” than others. These findings suggest the importance of assuring people participating in biobank research that the confidentiality of their “sensitive” health information is secured.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Community Genetics
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Biobank
  • Genetic exceptionalism
  • Loss of confidentiality
  • Return of results


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