Blog Post: Genetic Prenatal Testing

I am entering a debate in my Medical Anthropology class this Thursday regarding Genetic Prenatal Testing. This debate topic is highly contentious due to the morally problematic issues intrinsically involved. It can be argued that since developments in technology have allowed us to retrieve and disseminate this kind of information, parents and families concerned should be able to have access to it. In terms of pre-existing medical conditions in the family, such as cystic fibrosis, a parent should be able to know whether their child will be affected by the disease, and consequently make a choice regarding how they will deal with their circumstances. Or with a more socially constructed 'disability', such as down syndrome, a family may, for example, already have an affected child and should be able to decide whether or not they have the emotional or financial resources needed to raise another child with the genetic disposition.

Doctors follow strict ethical guidelines to prevent coercing individuals into making one decision over another. Also, in order to aid patients in making their decision, Genetic Counsellors are specifically trained to counsel families to fully understand what raising a child with a certain genetic disorder will entail.

However, the threat of genetic eugenics is an argument many can easily jump to.

With many disabilities, such as blindness, deafness, down syndrome, and much more, individuals are capable of leading rich, complex lives, regardless of their genetic makeup. By screening for such disorders, we imply that these individuals do not meet a socially constructed arbitrary normative standard. We threaten to eliminate cultures and languages, such as deaf culture and their mode of communication: sign language. We threaten to stigmatize individuals with genetic disorders and further, their parents for not doing everything possible to bring a 'normal' 'healthy' child into the world.

What are your thoughts, feelings, experiences on the topic of prenatal genetic testing?




Personally, I think that this issue has the potential to inspire a really extensive debate, because there are going to be good arguments coming from both sides.

In my point of view, prenatal genetic testing definitely gives parents choices that they deserve to have - afterall they are choosing to bring another life into the world in the first place. This is a life that they will be responsible for primarily, so if having a disabled child will mean that their ability to give it all the best they can will be hampered, all the more reason to use the technology. Also, if they reason that the child might not get the best out of the life it will live - by all means - because they are responsible for it.


The problem is where to draw the line with this technology. As you have said, we run the risk of running into genetic eugenics - placing genetically ordered and catered babies. Part of the beauty of the human race, is also what keeps our species strong - and that is diversity. The more diverse our population, the healthier it is in the long run, because there are more individuals with different qualities equiped for different purposes. Homogeneity is not only boring, but dangerous for our species (a movie called "Gattaca" comes to mind right about now). If everyone is too similar, something that wipes out one, can wipe out everyone. Further, if parents select all the fittest traits for their children, we are creating a super race divide that could lead to a conflict that would be devastating to everyone involved.

In conclusion, I think that the technology should be available, and that parents are ultimately in their right to choose. As ethically challenging as it might be in practice, I believe that there should be limits on the use of the technology. Certain disabilities bear more of an impact on the potential quality of life of an individual, and these are issues that should be taken into consideration. To avoid stigmas, we should make sure as a society, to praise both the parents that use the technology and the ones that opt not to.

commented by Nando82 on 2012-02-4 21:48:28