Values and value conflicts in implementation and use of preconception expanded carrier screening - an expert interview study

BMC Medical Ethics 20 (1):25 (2019)
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Abstract

Endeavors have been made to found and incorporate ethical values in most aspects of healthcare, including health technology assessment. Health technologies and their assessment are value-laden and could trigger problems with dissemination if they contradict societal norms. Per WHO definition, preconception expanded carrier screening is a new health technology that warrants assessment. It is a genetic test offered to couples who have no known risk of recessive genetic diseases and are interested pregnancy. A test may screen for carrier status of several autosomal recessive diseases and X-linked at one go. The technique has been piloted in the Netherlands and is discussed in other countries. The aim of the study was to examine values and value conflicts that healthcare experts recounted in relation to the discussion of implementation and use of preconception ECS in Sweden. We interviewed ten experts, who were associated with influencing health policymaking in Sweden. We employed systematizing expert interviews, which endeavor to access experts’ specialist knowledge. There were four female and six male informants, of which four were physicians, three bioethicists, one a legal expert, one a theologian and one a political party representative in the parliament. The participants functioned as members of two non-governmental bodies and three governmental organizations. We employed thematic analysis to identify themes, categories and subcategories. Two main themes surfaced: values and value conflicts. The main categories of Respect for persons, Solidarity, Human dignity, Do no harm, Health and Love formed the first theme, while values conflicting with autonomy and integrity respectively, constituted the second theme. Concepts relating to respect for persons were the most commonly mentioned among the participants, followed by notions alluding to solidarity. Furthermore, respondents discussed values conflicting with Swedish healthcare ones such as equality and solidarity. The experts highlighted values and concepts that are distinctive of welfare states such as Sweden and delineated how preconception ECS could challenge such values. Moreover, the analysis revealed that certain values were deemed more substantive than others, judging by the extent and detail of inference; for example, respect for persons and solidarity were on top of the list.

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Mats J. Hansson
Uppsala Universitet

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