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N Z Med J. 2013 Mar 1;126(1370):96-102.

Testing times: do new prenatal tests signal the end of Down syndrome?

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  • 1Bioethics Centre, University of Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand. gareth.jones@otago.ac.nz.

Abstract

Since 2010, prenatal screening for Down syndrome (DS) has been offered to all pregnant women in New Zealand. The programme has been criticised by several groups, on claims that screening is eugenic and discriminatory towards those with DS. Recently, tests have been developed that may one day prove more efficient than current screening methods. They are an example of 'Non-Invasive Prenatal Diagnosis' (NIPD), which enables diagnosis earlier in pregnancy with less risk of complications. If the current programme raises objections, what threats does this new and seemingly more attractive technology pose to the DS community? We argue that NIPD is simply an extension of current screening methods, raising similar ethical concerns. Presently, the programme shows little evidence of 'eugenics', demonstrated by moderate uptake rates and varying attitudes towards disability. We do not regard the offer of screening to be threatening, as women choose whether or not to be screened depending on their own personal circumstances. One day, prenatal testing may result in fewer people with DS; but past and present trends indicate these individuals will continue to be supported, irrespective of 'group size'. Care and respect for the disabled will remain essential, regardless of a woman's decision over her pregnancy.

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PMID:
23474517
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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