Prenatal Diagnostic Tests and the Social, Legal, and Ethical Implications

Prenatal Diagnostic Tests and the Social, Legal, and Ethical Implications

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Prenatal Diagnostic Tests and the Social, Legal, and Ethical Implications


Jackie and Michael are expecting their first baby. Jackie is 32 years old and is in good health. She is 15 weeks pregnant and wants to do everything possible to ensure a healthy baby. Even though they do not have risk factors within their families, she and Michael decide to have an amniocentesis.

The results indicate that their baby is a female with Turner Syndrome. This condition is caused by a missing X chromosome and results in short stature, ovarian failure, and medical problems involving the heart, thyroid glands, and kidneys. Some of these conditions can be treated and managed with great success. The question that arises after diagnoses is whether or not they will choose to terminate the pregnancy with an abortion or carry the child to full term.

The availability of methods that determine the genetic predisposition of a fetus gives rise to a whole array of questions and issues that must be confronted as we develop policies to deal with genetic testing. In this essay, I will present current and future methods for prenatal diagnosis, ethical concerns and related problems dealing with this new technology, my personal opinion on the issue, and finally, future goals in the science of genetics.

All of us are potential carriers of several deleterious recessive genes that could be lethal to our offspring if combined with another recessive allele carrying the same fate (IOM 1994). The chances of a genetic disease being passed on are 1 in 100 Americans born today (March of Dimes 1997). Because of the risks involved, many people are having prenatal tests to examine the genetic makeup of their fetuses. For many couples, this option...

... middle of paper ... to cure diseases we never dreamed possible, and the lives of humans will be improved eminently.

References Cited

Arc. Genetic Discrimination. Obtained from WWW 10/09/97:

Botkin, Jeffrey R. Fetal Privacy and Confidentiality. Hastings Center Report, Sept.-Oct. 1995:32-39.

Institute of Medicine. Assessing Genetic Risks. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 1994.

March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation. Genetic Testing and Gene Therapy: What They Mean to You and Your Family. Obtained from WWW 10/09/97:

Mattei, Jean-Francois. Prenatal Diagnosis. World Health, No. 5, Sept.-Oct. 1996:22-23.

Morejon, Diana Punales. Commentary. Hastings Center Report, May-June 1996:21-22.

Weatherall, D.J. The New Genetics and Clinical Practice. Oxford University Press, 1991.

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