Ethical Considerations for Equitable Access to Genomic Sequencing for Critically Ill Neonates in the United States

Kristen P. Fishler, Joshua C Euteneuer, Luca Brunelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rare diseases impact all socio-economic, geographic, and racial groups indiscriminately. Newborn screening (NBS) is an exemplary international public health initiative that identifies infants with rare conditions early in life to reduce morbidity and mortality. NBS theoretically promotes equity through universal access, regardless of financial ability. There is however heterogeneity in access to newborn screening and conditions that are screened throughout the world. In the United States and some other developed countries, NBS is provided to all babies, subsidized by the local or federal government. Although NBS is an equitable test, infants admitted to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) may not receive similar benefits to healthier infants. Newborns in the NICU may receive delayed and/or multiple newborn screens due to known limitations in interpreting the results with prematurity, total parenteral nutrition, blood transfusions, infection, and life support. Thus, genomic technologies might be needed in addition to NBS for equitable care of this vulnerable population. Whole exome (WES) and genome sequencing (WGS) have been recently studied in critically ill newborns across the world and have shown promising results in shortening diagnostic odysseys and providing clinical utility. However, in certain circumstances several barriers might limit access to these tests. Here, we discuss some of the existing barriers to genomic sequencing in NICUs in the United States, explore the ethical implications related to low access, consider ways to increase access to genomic testing, and offer some suggestions for future research in these areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number22
JournalInternational Journal of Neonatal Screening
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • NICU
  • diagnostic odyssey
  • equity
  • ethics
  • health disparities
  • justice
  • newborn genomic sequencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Immunology and Microbiology (miscellaneous)
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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