Objects: With the advent of genetic technologies, many genetic/metabolic disorders can be detected asymptomatically but might be untreatable, and the benefits and risks of screening for them are not fully known. The purpose of this study is to explore current practice with regard to the parental consent process in newborn screening (NBS). Design: Staff in 23 obstetric clinics/hospitals that conduct NBS in one city of southern Taiwan were interviewed. Using content analysis, 15 interview transcripts, eight completed questionnaires, and other relevant documents from the 23 clinics/hospitals were analysed to reveal the framework of the parental consent process in NBS in southern Taiwan. Main measures: Three categories - informed consent, informed dissent, and no informed/consent - were developed to analyse the parental consent process in NBS. Results: The parental consent procedures in NBS and the quality of the information provided before obtaining consent vary widely. Because the traditional NBS was incorporated into routine paediatric practices in most clinics/hospitals, the most frequently encountered consent model is "informed dissent" (60.9%) and "no informed/consent" (30.4%); while an "informed consent" model (45.5%) is the frequent model for screening rare metabolic/genetic disorders. Conclusions: Specific guidelines to regulate the parental consent process for NBS are essential. Further studies should investigate parental responses to NBS, taking these as the basis on which to establish an informed consent model in Taiwan.
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