Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB)

Preconception genetic screening: What health care professionals think

2016-05-31

Reproductive genetic screening is surrounded by discussion. The ethical debate revolves around reproductive autonomy,  medicalization, discrimination and parental responsibility. A new study that examines the health care professional’s views on these issues in relation to the use of preconception expanded carrier screening (ECS) show they share the same concerns.

Swedish health care is currently not offering preconceptional screening to couples unless they belong to an at risk community, but this might be the case in the future. Amal Matar recently published a paper reporting the results of in-depth interviews with a number of Swedish clinicians, geneticists, including one midwife and one genetic counsellor. A content analysis of the material shows that the participants have a number of concerns regarding this type of screening. Much like the current debate, their ethical concerns are related to discrimination, medicalization, priorities in health care and the effects this could have on people’s reproductive freedom. Participants were concerned about the effects of a possible future implementation of screening programmes on stakeholders and regulation.

According to Amal Matar, if these concerns are not addressed, they could affect a possible future implementation of carrier screening in Sweden. Despite the small sample, she and the other authors believe that their findings are important and could prove useful if policy makers in Sweden or other Scandinavian countries decide to implement ECS. This paper is part of her PhD thesis dealing with the ethical aspects of screening. This study will be followed by a similar interview study with Swedish health policy makers.

Read paper in the Journal of Community Genetics: Swedish healthcare providers’ perceptions of preconception expanded carrier screening (ECS)—a qualitative study

Josepine Fernow

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