Public perception of genetics in healthcare

  • Helena L Davies

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science by Research (MScR)


The UK is a world leader in genomic medicine, with plans to collect 5 million genomes by 2024. The use of genetic data in healthcare is posited to bring many benefits to UK healthcare.

However, genetics is not widely understood by the public. The deficit model of knowledge suggests that misunderstandings about genetics are likely to be linked to a lack of acceptance of genomic medicine. It is important to characterise the nature of this relationship as this will help to guide mainstreaming of genetic testing into NHS practice. Previous studies examining this relationship show mixed results; the nature of the relationship may depend on the specific type of knowledge studied. Therefore, my first study explored UK participants’ biological knowledge of genetics, their clinical knowledge of genomic medicine, and their perception of their genetic knowledge. The results indicated that neither biological nor clinical knowledge predicted participants’ acceptance of genomics. However, participants’ perception of their own genetic knowledge was found to predict their acceptance.

My second study was a qualitative exploration of participants’ opinions about genomic medicine. Participants were given information about genomic medicine prior to the study. The results indicated that although participants recognised some benefits of genomic medicine, they also had concerns. For example, whilst genetic data were considered to have the ability to empower you to live your life to the full, participants were also concerned about the potential for genetic results to have a detrimental psychological impact. Overall, the results pointed to the importance of genetic counsellors and maintaining anonymity throughout the genetic testing process, as well as showing that the public are keen to get involved with the development of genomic policy.
Date of Award23 Jan 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorClaire M A Haworth (Supervisor)

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