Safer Down Syndrome Tests Give Birth to Ethics Fears

Procedures look safer, more accurate, but raise ethics concerns
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Feb 24, 2009 11:23 AM CST
Soon-to-be-available Down syndrome tests look more accurate and safer than current ones.   (Shutterstock)
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(Newser) – New tests to detect Down syndrome early in pregnancy look highly promising to some experts—but they’re prompting new ethical and medical questions, the Washington Post reports. The procedures, to be publicly available in June, appear safer and more accurate than current options. But Down syndrome and anti-abortion activists fear they could increase terminated pregnancies, while some doctors worry more testing is needed before they’re marketed.

The tests use a pregnant woman’s blood and are less invasive than current procedures. “We have a history in this country of a eugenics movement where people tried to eliminate certain people from the gene pool,” says one of the tests' detractors. Meanwhile, others worry expecting parents could get flawed information about Down syndrome. “We have a nation of physicians who are unprepared for explaining a diagnosis,” said a doctor.