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A Comparison of Parental and Non-Parental Attitudes Towards Prenatal Screening.

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Introduction

A Comparison of Parental and Non-Parental Attitudes Towards Prenatal Screening. Abstract Prenatal genetic screening has been offered by health authorities in the UK for over twenty years in order to identify those at a higher than average risk of having a child with a disability so that the parents may be offered genetic testing to give more specific information about the health of the foetus and define the risk for future pregnancies. However with the continual advances of the Human Genome Project, there is an increasing trend towards more parental control over a child's characteristics. The aims of this study were to examine the attitudes of parents and non-parents towards the subject of prenatal screening in order to evaluate if parental views parallel those of the rest of society. 247 participants (consisting of 125 parents and 122 non-parents) were involved in this study and were selected by opportunity quota sampling. They were allocated to one of two groups, parents or non-parents. Each group completed a similar questionnaire based on their attitudes to, amongst other things, prenatal screening. The answers from six of the questions were then scored depending on which answer was chosen. Analysis of the selected data was carried out using a t test, however there was no significant difference found (t(245)=1.38; p? 0.05). With a one tailed hypothesis, a critical value of 1.645 was found, therefore the null hypothesis was rejected in favour of the alternate hypothesis that parents will not have a more positive attitude towards prenatal screening than non-parents. The result indicated that parental attitudes towards prenatal screening closely mirror that of society as a whole. Both groups scoring within the middle range also indicated that neither group has a heavily biased view either for or against prenatal screening. There is a need for further research in the field of prenatal genetic screening and its manipulation. With its inherent benefits as well as its potential for abuse, it is an important area of research, and will remain so for some time. ...read more.

Middle

This however could easily be remedied by future studies. Another methodological implication, which could be remedied by future research, was that the questionnaires did not allow for personal experience of prenatal screening in any of the questions (for parents or non-parents) even though this could play an important part in the formation of attitudes towards prenatal screening. Future research could delve more specifically into attitudes towards the trend for a 'perfect' baby, possibly questioning where the line should be drawn. At what point should technological and medical advancements stop interfering and let nature 'take its course'. What diseases or impairments have such a negative impact on a foetuses future life that termination is the only humane option? Are such decisions made in terms of the quality of life that the foetus will have or in terms of the cost to society for its care? The answers to such questions are of great importance as increasingly genetic and technological advancements are overtaking the existing realms of public policies meant to control them and as such, new policies have to be created or old ones adapted. The attitudes of the majority will play an important part in the formation of such policies. There is a need to avoid abuses of such screening, for non-disease conditions, such as sex selection, and for eugenic purposes. An extra insurance against such abuse is to continue to educate people away from discrimination that is based on any apparent difference. Such education measures can change social attitudes towards "handicapped" as shown by studies in Canada between 1975 and 1988 (Rees, Spreen and Harnadek, 1991). Prenatal testing carries undeniable benefits. For expectant parents it offers improved chances of having healthy offspring, provides some reassurance of foetal health during pregnancy, and increases women's bonding with the foetus. It offers the medical profession a technique if not a treatment to assist parents, albeit imperfectly, in reaching their goal of a healthy child. ...read more.

Conclusion

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