Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing for “Non-Medical” Traits: Ensuring Consistency in Ethical Decision-Making

American Journal of Bioethics 23 (3):3-20 (2021)
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Abstract

The scope of noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) could expand in the future to include detailed analysis of the fetal genome. This will allow for the testing for virtually any trait with a genetic contribution, including “non-medical” traits. Here we discuss the potential use of NIPT for these traits. We outline a scenario which highlights possible inconsistencies with ethical decision-making. We then discuss the case against permitting these uses. The objections include practical problems; increasing inequities; increasing the burden of choice; negative impacts on the child, family, and society; and issues with implementation. We then outline the case for permitting the use of NIPT for these traits. These include arguments for reproductive liberty and autonomy; questioning the labeling of traits as “non-medical”; and the principle of procreative beneficence. This summary of the case for and against can serve as a basis for the development of a consistent and coherent ethical framework.

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