Antenatal genetic testing and the right to remain in ignorance

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As knowledge increases about the human genome, prenatal genetic testing will become cheaper, safer and more comprehensive. It is likely that there will be a great deal of support for making prenatal testing for a wide range of genetic disorders a routine part of antenatal care. Such routine testing is necessarily coercive in nature and does not involve the same standard of consent as is required in other health care settings. This paper asks whether this level of coercion is ethically justifiable in this case, or whether pregnant women have a right to remain in ignorance of the genetic make-up of the fetus they are carrying. While information gained by genetic testing may be useful for pregnant women when making decisions about their pregnancy, it does not prevent harm to future children. It is argued that as this kind of testing provides information in the interests of the pregnant women and not in the interests of any future child, the same standards of consent that are normally required for genetic testing should be required in this instance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-471
Number of pages10
JournalTheoretical Medicine and Bioethics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Autonomy
  • Coercion
  • Consent
  • Harm
  • Prenatal genetic testing


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