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Ethical implications of biotechnology: prenatal diagnosis

The Commission's Group of Advisers on the Ethical Implications of Biotechnology has published an Opinion on the "Ethical aspects of prenatal diagnosis". This is the sixth Opinion to be delivered by the Group, set up by the European Commission in 1991, which consists of nine le...
The Commission's Group of Advisers on the Ethical Implications of Biotechnology has published an Opinion on the "Ethical aspects of prenatal diagnosis". This is the sixth Opinion to be delivered by the Group, set up by the European Commission in 1991, which consists of nine leading European personalities drawn from a number of fields (law, genetics, medicine, philosophy and theology).

Prenatal diagnosis (PND) is a method of examining pregnancies, using invasive techniques (amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling), in order to rule out or confirm the presence of fetal anomalies or genetic disease. PND raises ethical concerns regarding safety (possibility of miscarriage) and its possible influence on decisions as to the termination of the pregnancy. There is also a fear that widespread use may lead to a reduction in aid and assistance for disabled people.

In its Opinion, the Group stresses the voluntary nature of this service (PND must not be imposed by law) and the vital role of genetic counselling. In this context, the Group calls on the European Union to promote high and comparable standards of training for genetic counsellors in all Member States. It also advocates official recognition of centres in which PND is performed in order to guarantee the reliability and quality of services offered. The importance of confidentiality of data and adequate public information are underlined.
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