“Prenatal testing is a complicated decision for many women, forcing us to confront concerns of about a disabled child and a miscarriage.”Emily Oster, best selling author of “Parenting by the numbers”
As technology evolves, the more genetic properties of a foetus we can predict and analyze. Prenatal testing, for that matter, is a technology developed to assess the likelihood of a mother carrying a foetus with a cell mutation or genetic condition. This can be accessed in the first trimester of the mother’s pregnancy. However, as these technologies become more available, the more people rely on them for internal relief for the potential of their newborn.
With this, my goal for this catalyst conference project is not only to discuss the ethical standpoints of this topic but to also provide information where both sides of the issue can be met inclusively with alternative and supportive options within a community-based setting.
What are the ethical standpoints to consider?
What elements demonstrate that Prenatal testing can be unethical?
Nonmaleficence towards the foetus: Invasive Prenatal testing such as amniocentesis, assesses the likelihood of a mother developing a foetus with Down Syndrome, by injecting a needle into the mother’s uterus to extract amniotic fluid surrounding the foetus. Following this, there becomes a risk of a total miscarriage, infections or other injuries to the foetus. This can cause more harm to the foetus itself than to not have Prenatal testing predominantly.
The autonomy/beneficence of the foetus: The foetus has no autonomy over its body or the decisions made upon it because it can not verbalise an opinion. This means the foetus entirely relies on its mother to act with beneficence towards it. If the mother chooses to terminate the foetus after gaining knowledge after the prenatal testing, the foetus is ultimately harmed.
How does society pose an influence?
For centuries, genetic mutations such as Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) have been perceived poorly by the nature of society. In World War II, Hilter formed a euthanise program for those living with Down Syndrome or other cell mutations. He described the lives of these people “a life not worth living”. We obviously do not see this level of discriminatory extremity in modern society. However, it gives an idea of the impact society has on others’ existences and society’s intentional/unintentional want for a dystopian world. This is why this topic can be so controversial as decisions can be influenced by not only risks and benefits, but society’s interests.
This poses the question, is it more beneficial for the mother to know the genetic make-up of the foetus at all? Today, people feel comfortable living life indistinguishable from others. Mothers might worry what others may think of them if they chose to give birth to a child who may be considered “different” to society and may worry about how their child would fit in with others. This is why having Prenatal testing allows time for the stereotypes of society to influence decisions.
Here is an additional video:
What elements demonstrate that Prenatal testing can be considered ethical?
The autonomy of the parent: Ultimately, the decision made by the parent to have Prenatal testing should not be questioned as this choice can differ depending on the person. Questioning a person’s decision to have prenatal testing can be invasive itself as it is significantly personal.
Preparation: Prenatal testing may allow mothers to prepare for their child more appropriatly based on the predicted needs. This would act with beneficence to all mothers, to prepare the environment possible for the best quality of life of their child. In other cases, some parents may not be ready to raise a child with a mutation or a child in general.
Can there be a middle ground?
In my local community, after further investigation, I obtained multiple establishments that proceed to evaluate both sides of this ethical topic.
- Hobart pathology, through Harmony Prenatal testing (Sonic Genetics) offers non-invasive Prenatal testing. This testing does not act to cause further harm to the foetus or the mother, which aligns with the ethical principle of nonmaleficence. This can help to alleviate the worry of the mother without harming the foetus. https://www.sonicgenetics.com.au/patient/test-information/nipt/harmony-prenatal-test/
Tasmanian Clinical Genetics Service offers counselling for those who are preparing to give birth or have a child who has a genetic mutation. This allows parents to feel supported during their journey. https://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/service_information/services_files/RHH/treatments_and_services/Tasmanian_clinical_genetics_service
What are your ethical considerations on this topic?
In my opinion, there is no right or wrong answer to this ethical question as the reasons for testing can be different for everyone, depending on the circumstance. This is why the importance of evaluating both sides of the equation can help to decide what is best for any given person. However, I would like to know your opinion on this topic to gather further insight into the perspectives evident within this topic in the comments section bellow.
So I ask:
- What do you justify is the most ethical conclusion to this topic? i.e. are you for or against Prenatal testing?
- What do you consider is the most controversial about this topic, and why?
- Are there any other possible opportunities/resources that you believe satisfy both of the viewpoints justified?
Here is the link to the resources I used: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1nrf4JB5CFWfmhlUAPfpsCgTb8DE8cxj_k1f9rIGIklE/edit?usp=sharing