Prenatal Screening Advances Create Agonizing Choices

Doctors may detect disease but struggle for details
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Oct 25, 2008 7:18 AM CDT
Prenatal ultrasound and genetic screening are giving parents agonizing choices, and increasingly medicalizing pregnancy.

(Newser) – Advances in prenatal screening have given parents-to-be a clearer window into the health of their unborn children—and the dramatic increase in information can lead to wrenching choices. Tests are now able to detect many genetic disorders—but they are not always reliable, or able to predict specific outcomes, the Wall Street Journal reports. That can lead to awful dilemmas for parents deciding whether to continue a pregnancy.

The Journal tells the story of a couple who were told that their unborn son had a rare genetic condition that could kill him before he was a year old. The father and doctors encouraged termination, but the mother, a Catholic who regretted an earlier abortion, argued that the diagnosis could be wrong. The baby is now 20 months old, and his new geneticist has confirmed the mother’s belief. But the child's health is precarious, he is significantly disabled, and the burden on the family has been overwhelming.