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The practical and ethical implications of non-invasive diagnostic testing

Posted Jun 12 2009 6:43pm

The Journal of the American Medical Association has published a commentary written by two doctors from the University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, on the practical and ethical implications of new non-invasive diagnostic testing for Down’s syndrome.

The article is only available to existing subscribers or those willing to shell out $25, but Patricia E. Bauer has the details:

“Among other concerns, the authors cite these:

– Women currently receiving fetal Down syndrome screening often receive only limited information prior to the screening and are rarely asked to provide inormed consent. Many women are unaware that this screening may ultimately lead to questions about further invasive testing and possible termination of the pregnancy.

– The use of noninvasive testing “may be encouraged” by for-profit laboratories, insurance companies and governmental health agencies that could derive economic benefits from the use of the testing, potentially undercutting individual patient choice.

– The reduced prevalence of people with identifiable genetic disabilities in the population could “subtly alter public attitudes toward the acceptability of continuing an affected pregnancy.” This attitude shift could “diminish understanding and support for affected individuals and their families and increase the stigma associated with having a genetic disorder.”

The authors call for the public, medical professional societies, and the government to be proactively involved in shaping the future of this testing.”

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