Enhanced Diagnostic Tools
While there are many benefits to this more efficient prenatal genetic screening method, skeptics worry that babies will be born with a "syndrome label." Prior to this new technology, in 2005 in Mississauga, Ontario, at twenty-one weeks pregnant, the trisomy 13 disorder was detected in Barbara Farlow's unborn daughter. When Ms. Farlow's daughter, Annie, was about three months old, she suffered a respiratory attack and was admitted into the hospital. Annie died within 24 hours and the official cause was "complications of trisomy 13." However, Ms. Farlow and her husband still do not know all of the details, despite years of inquiry. They did find out, though, that a do-not-resuscitate order was issued by someone without their consent. They believe that the results of the prenatal genetic testing ultimately determined her fate and that "she was treated as a syndrome. She wasn't treated as a child."
Advocates for the new test say expectant parents can never be too informed and that more knowledge empowers people to make better choices. Other points made are that the test can be performed earlier than amniocentesis and that it provides the maximum amount of information about a fetus, allowing a prospective parent to either terminate the pregnancy or prepare for a child with disabilities. Microarray testing has already been used extensively as a diagnostic tool in pediatrics. When used to identify the genetic roots of mental retardation in children, for instance, it has proven twice as effective as conventional techniques. Researchers say it may be even more useful for prenatal diagnosis, detecting up to 200 genetic abnormalities, while returning ambiguous results in only 1% of cases.
Since prenatal genetic screening is most often an elective procedure, prospective parents can avoid the undue stress of a flood of prenatal genetic information, if they so choose. Many parents-to-be decide that results of prenatal genetic testing will not change or affect their decision to continue a pregnancy, so they opt out of it.
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