Ethical Practice in Prenatal Screening – Can Informed Consent Deliver?

Milligan, Eleanor (2004) Ethical Practice in Prenatal Screening – Can Informed Consent Deliver? In Bailey, C., Cabrera, D., & Buys, L. (Eds.) Social Change in the 21st Century Conference; Centre for Social Change Research.


As the technological capacity to diagnose certain conditions prenatally expands, and more asymptomatic women are exposed to routine forms of prenatal screening, increasing emphasis is being placed on the garnering of informed consent within existing testing regimes to confer ethical legitimisation to this routine medical intervention. But while the garnering of informed consent has been incorporated into prenatal routines, recent studies show that for most women the purpose, practicalities and potential outcomes of the tests they have 'consented' to are poorly understood. Indeed most have simply followed the prescribed normative pathway without question. These findings contradict assertions of 'informed' engagement and thus cast doubt on the ethical validity of the currently accepted protocols. Closer consideration of the underlying assumptions of autonomy, on which informed consent is based reveals that the individualistic notions embedded do not reflect the relational way in which people interact. When applied in a context that offers few educational opportunities to become truly informed and which is unresponsive to the social, institutional and personal constraints experienced, the mere layering of 'informed consent' onto existing, unchallenged regimes is failing to achieve ethically coherent outcomes. Clearly, the current situation is proving to be an inadequate platform from which to build ethically sensitive responses to the complex ethical issues at stake in an increasingly technological world. With recent history of antenatal care showing how quickly new technologies are embraced often before their clinical or societal implications are clear, ensuring ethically responsive practices into the 21st century demands further consideration now, with a re-thinking of how genuinely informed consent may be achieved.

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ID Code: 637
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: prenatal screening, informed consent, communicating risk, autonomy, ethics
ISBN: 1741070813
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIOLOGY (160800) > Social Change (160805)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIAL WORK (160700) > Counselling Welfare and Community Services (160702)
Divisions: Past > Research Centres > Centre for Social Change Research
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > QUT Carseldine - Humanities & Human Services
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2004 Eleanor Milligan
Deposited On: 21 Dec 2004 00:00
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 12:22

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