The Prenatal Genetic Testing Debate

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The recent advances in genetic sequencing have led to the possibility of prenatal whole-genome sequencing. As a result, parents are more interested in prenatal genome sequencing so that they can identify the risk of the foetus developing certain diseases either in childhood or adulthood. It is possible to conduct a rigorous genetic analysis that helps to identify the presence of genes that will lead to undesirable traits that may compromise the health of the child. In the modern day, parents emphasise the need for autonomy when making important decisions regarding prenatal testing. Particularly, women enjoy reproductive choices in different countries a factor that allows them to terminate a pregnancy if the foetus presents increased health risks. However, there are ethical and moral concerns regarding prenatal genetic testing. Although some scholars emphasise the autonomy of parents, there are other concerns regarding the moral justification of parents to determine the future of the foetus.

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With these ethical concerns, genetic counsellors have a critical role to play in helping parents to make the right decisions before prenatal testing and after the process. Parents should have the permission to carry out prenatal genetic testing and determine whether the foetus is at risk of developing undesirable health complications. With such information, the parents will be able to make an informed decision regarding the future of their child. Genetic counsellors must maintain neutrality during counselling without compelling parents to conform to the existing social pressure. Genetic counsellors should focus on ensuring that parents make an informed choice regarding the identified risks in the foetus. Maintaining neutrality during counselling creates a platform for the parents to express their autonomy and make a decision that conforms to their values.

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  1. Yurkiewicz I, Korf B, Lehmann L. Prenatal Whole-Genome Sequencing. Obstet Gynecol Surv. 2014;69(4):197-199.
  2. Ho A. The Individualist Model of Autonomy and the Challenge of Disability. J Bioeth Inq. 2008;5(2-3):193-207.
  3. Deans Z, Hill M, Chitty L, Lewis C. Non-invasive prenatal testing for single gene disorders: exploring the ethics. European Journal of Human Genetics. 2012;21(7):713-718.
  4. Hawkins A, Ho A. Genetic Counseling and the Ethical Issues Around Direct to Consumer Genetic Testing. J Genet Couns. 2012;21(3):367-373.
  5. Meskus M. Personalized ethics: The emergence and the effects in prenatal testing. Biosocieties. 2012;7(4):373-392.
  6. Suter S. Value Neutrality and Nondirectiveness: Comments on Future Directions in Genetic Counseling. Kennedy Inst Ethics J. 1998;8(2):161-163.
  7. Iltis A. Prenatal screening and prenatal diagnosis: contemporary practices in light of the past. J Med Ethics. 2016;42(6):334-339.
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