Automatic Prenatal Test For Down's Syndrome Puts Babies At Greater Risk Of Being Screened Out

"Travelling in opposite direction to good, ethical prenatal care"

Ethicists and Down's syndrome advocates have raised concerns about a new process for prenatally screening for chromosomal conditions, which, they say, removes the opportunity for families to receive proper counselling.

Newspapers such as the Independent have been talking about a new, "far more accurate" test, which researchers have hailed as "transformational". The test is in fact the non-invasive prenatal screening (NIPT) which the Government announced it was rolling out last year, despite campaigners concerns. However, the "reflex" DNA system, trialled by researchers at Queen Mary University of London across five NHS maternity wards, involves taking the pregnant woman’s blood at the initial screening stage and automatically sending it to be analysed using NIPT if the woman is found to have at least a 1 in 800 chance of having a baby with Down's, Edward's or Patau's syndromes.

According to the Nuffield Bioethics Centre, "this contrasts with the system that Public Health England will be rolling out across the NHS next year, in which women found to have a 'high chance' initial screening result will be given the opportunity to discuss NIPT with a specially trained healthcare professional and decide if they would like to have NIPT or not."

Informed choices?

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