Qualifying choice: ethical reflection on the scope of prenatal screening

Greg Stapleton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Web of Science)


In the near future developments in non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) may soon provide couples with the opportunity to test for and diagnose a much broader range of heritable and congenital conditions than has previously been possible. Inevitably, this has prompted much ethical debate on the possible implications of NIPT for providing couples with opportunities for reproductive choice by way of routine prenatal screening. In view of the possibility to test for a significantly broader range of genetic conditions with NIPT, the European Society of Human Genetics (ESHG) and American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) recommend that, pending further debate, prenatal screening for reproductive choice should only be offered where concerning serious congenital conditions and childhood disorders. In support of this recommendation, the ESHG and ASHG discuss a number of ethical issues on which they prompt further debate: the informational privacy of the future child, the trivialization of abortion, the risk of information overload, and issues of distributive justice. This paper responds to this call with further reflection on each ethical issue and how it relates to the moral justification of providing couples with opportunities for meaningful reproductive choice. The paper concludes that whilst there may be good reasons for qualifying the scope of any unsolicited prenatal screening offer to serious congenital conditions and childhood disorders, if prenatal screening is justified for providing couples with opportunities for meaningful reproductive choice, then health services may have obligations to empower couples with the same opportunity where concerning other conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-205
Number of pages11
JournalMedicine Health Care and Philosophy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • Abortion
  • Ethics
  • Non-invasive prenatal testing
  • Prenatal screening
  • Reproductive autonomy
  • Reproductive choice

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