Genetic screening and ethics: European perspectives

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 23 (3):255 – 273 (1998)
Analysis and comparison of genetic screening programs shows that the extent of development of programs varies widely across Europe. Regional variations are due not only to genetic disease patterns but also reflect the novelty of genetic services. In most countries, the focus for genetic screening programs has been pregnant women and newborn children. Newborn children are screened only for disorders which are treatable. Prenatal screening when provided is for conditions for which termination may be offered. The only population screening programs for adults are those for thalassaemia carrier status in Cyprus, Greece and Italy. Social responses to genetic screening range from acceptance to hostility. There is a fundamental tension between individual and communi ty in the debates in various European countries about implementation of screening programs. Opposition to genetic screening is frequently expressed in terms of arguments about "eugenics" with insufficient regard to the meaning of the term and its implications. Only a few countries have introduced explicit legislation on genetic screening. Legislation to address discrimination may provide more safeguards than legislation protecting genetic information itself.
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DOI 10.1076/jmep.
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