Health Sciences Building, 155 College Street, Room 106
  • May 4, 2016 from 4:10pm to 5:30pm

Speaker: Lauren Notini, Fellow, Clinical and Organizational Bioethics, University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics

In the clinical context, incidental findings are defined as previously unnoticed findings that are revealed unexpectedly by a diagnostic test or examination and are not related to the reason(s) the test or examination was requested. Healthcare professionals may deliberate about the best way to manage incidental findings, including whether and how to disclose incidental findings to the affected individual(s). Since incidental findings may have significant and far-reaching medical, financial, social, and/or psychological consequences for the individual(s) concerned, practicing healthcare ethicists (PHEs) may be called upon to assist in these deliberations.

Although there is a significant amount of literature on incidental findings and how they should be managed in the clinical context, little attention has been paid to incidental findings that PHEs may encounter in their own professional practice.

In this seminar, I will use de-identified case examples to highlight some different ways that incidental findings may emerge in the work of a PHE. I will draw similarities and dissimilarities between incidental findings in the clinical and bioethics contexts and consider whether any findings can truly be considered “incidental” in bioethics. I will also explore different ways in which PHEs may manage incidental findings that arise in their practice and highlight the ethical pros and cons of each of these approaches. I propose that it would be worthwhile for PHEs and ethics programs to consider how they will manage incidental findings that may emerge in their practice, if they have not done so already.