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Am J Med Genet. 1998 Feb 3;75(4):426-31.

Attitudes of Mexican geneticists towards prenatal diagnosis and selective abortion.

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Instituto Nacional de PediatrĂ­a, Mexico City, Mexico.


Prenatal diagnosis (PD) provides the physician information on whether the unborn fetus has a genetic or chromosomal disorder, and offers patients a new option: selective abortion. In the present study, we analyzed the answers Mexican geneticists provided to a few selected questions from a multinational survey designed by Wertz and Fletcher [1988: Am J Hum Genet 42:592-600]. The selected questions were related to the use of PD, the acceptance of selective abortion, and the self-reported directiveness of counselling following the diagnosis of a fetal anomaly. Our results show that the great majority of Mexican geneticists participating in the study agree with PD when medically indicated, but not on free demand. Specific cases stimulated the group on thinking more than the general statements provided in the survey. Although the majority agreed that PD should be available to all women, when faced with cases of nonmorbid maternal anxiety, paternity testing, and sex selection, the proportion of geneticists willing to perform the test decreased substantially. When counselling patients on a fetal anomaly, the minority would be as unbiased as possible, and this seems to be the tendency in developing countries where counselling, as stated in the respondents' comments, reflects the belief that the goal of genetics is the prevention of or opposition to abortion. Counselling was influenced by the severity of the disorder. The geneticists' personal attitude toward abortion in the same situations was stronger than when counselling others. Analysis of directiveness in counselling for fetal anomaly showed that older geneticists, with more years of experience in medical genetics, were more likely to be neutral. When counselling directively, the group showed an overall direction toward continuing affected pregnancies. However, older geneticists and those with more than 10 years of practice were more likely than their younger counterparts to counsel towards terminating affected pregnancies. In personal situations of fetal disorder, the general tendency was to abort; however, geneticists seeing more than 5 patients per week, and those who believe that religion is important, were more likely to reject abortion. The sample is representative of Mexican geneticists, and the main limitation of this study is that the geneticists have very little experience in PD, and that their responses were mostly based on theory. However, their opinions may influence the demand and the availability of PD and abortion, as well as the possibility of legalization of abortion on the basis of a fetal defect.

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