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The Eugenics Stigma: the role of the Genetic Counsellor in Prenatal Testing

CollectionsANU Student Research Conference (2nd : 2016 : Canberra, ACT)
Title: The Eugenics Stigma: the role of the Genetic Counsellor in Prenatal Testing
Author(s): Murdoch, Emma
Keywords: student research conference;eugenics;bioogy;genetic counselling;literature review
Date published: 14-Jul-2016
Publisher: Australian National University
This report examines the role of genetic counsellors in discussing prenatal testing, and the affect that resulting options have on perpetuating the eugenics stigma in the field. Research was conducted through a literature review of current discussions surrounding the issue. Initial interest and a case-based foundation were gained through experience and communication with genetic counsellors working at ACT Genetics. Genetic counselling is the process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease. A specific aspect of this care surrounds prenatal testing. In particular, whether it is an option, the process involved, and the subsequent decisions. When the issue of newer technologies is introduced, such as Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), the selection of embryos based on genetic testing, the issue quickly becomes linked to eugenics practices. Prenatal testing varies in its forms as do the laws regarding PGD, but the overarching issues remain. Eugenics today is defined, medically, as the act of increasing the prevalence of desirable traits in a population, through the decreasing frequency of negative alleles at specific chromosome sites, through controlled breeding. The findings of this study are significant in highlighting the practical role of genetic counselling in helping patients understand changes of modern medical genetics. The conclusions drawn from this report determine whether PGD is recognisable as eugenics. It was also found that the role of PGD and selective implantation is complex. It may never have a simple conclusion on how it fits into current societal expectations.


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