Antenatal genetic testing and the right to remain in ignorance

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 22 (5):461-471 (2001)
Abstract
As knowledge increases about the human genome,prenatal genetic testing will become cheaper,safer and more comprehensive. It is likelythat there will be a great deal of support formaking prenatal testing for a wide range ofgenetic disorders a routine part of antenatalcare. Such routine testing is necessarilycoercive in nature and does not involve thesame standard of consent as is required inother health care settings. This paper askswhether this level of coercion is ethicallyjustifiable in this case, or whether pregnantwomen have a right to remain in ignorance ofthe genetic make-up of the fetus they arecarrying. While information gained by genetictesting may be useful for pregnant women whenmaking decisions about their pregnancy, it doesnot prevent harm to future children. It isargued that as this kind of testing providesinformation in the interests of the pregnantwomen and not in the interests of any futurechild, the same standards of consent that arenormally required for genetic testing should berequired in this instance
Keywords autonomy  consent  coercion  harm  prenatal genetic testing
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