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downs syndrome testing in pregnancy

Modern reproductive technologies such as IVF and the ability to test for conditions such as Down Syndrome pre natally have led to a host of ethical dilemmas. The Downs syndrome testing dilemma is a common ethical dilemma at medical school interviews.

A test called the Triple Test is commonly done when a woman is 11 weeks pregnant. This involves doing an ultrasound and blood tests and involves no harm to the foetus. However it is not accurate and simply indicates whether there is a higher risk of a Down’s Syndrome baby. If the test is positive a further test, an amniocentesis or CVS [chorionic villous sampling] is offered to get a definitive answer on whether the baby has Down’s Syndrome or not. This last test is accurate but carries a 2% risk of causing a miscarriage as it involves passing a large needle into the uterus and is invasive. If the baby is found to have a positive amniocentesis or CVS then the couple are usually offered the option of a termination on the grounds of foetal abnormality.

A couple have a positive Triple test but say that they would be against terminating the pregnancy [opting for an abortion] even if the baby had Down’s Syndrome. However they request further invasive testing. What issues does this raise?

ANSWER NEXT WEEK!

amniocentesis being performed

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