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Non-invasive prenatal testing for fetal chromosome abnormalities: review of clinical and ethical issues

Authors Gekas J, Langlois S, Ravitsky V, Audibert F, van den Berg D, Haidar H, Rousseau F

Received 24 March 2015

Accepted for publication 15 September 2015

Published 4 February 2016 Volume 2016:9 Pages 15—26

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/TACG.S85361

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Prof. Dr. Martin H. Maurer


Jean Gekas,1,2 Sylvie Langlois,3 Vardit Ravitsky,4 François Audibert,5 David Gradus van den Berg,6 Hazar Haidar,4 François Rousseau2,7

1Prenatal Diagnosis Unit, Department of Medical Genetics and Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval, Québec City, QC, Canada; 2Department of Medical Biology, CHU de Québec, Québec City, QC, Canada; 3Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada; 4Bioethics Program, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, School of Public Health, University of Montreal, Montreal, QC, Canada; 5Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Hospital Sainte-Justine, Montreal, QC, Canada; 6Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval, Québec City, QC, Canada; 7Department of Molecular Biology, Medical Biochemistry and Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval, Québec City, QC, Canada

Abstract: Genomics-based non-invasive prenatal screening using cell-free DNA (cfDNA screening) was proposed to reduce the number of invasive procedures in current prenatal diagnosis for fetal aneuploidies. We review here the clinical and ethical issues of cfDNA screening. To date, it is not clear how cfDNA screening is going to impact the performances of clinical prenatal diagnosis and how it could be incorporated in real life. The direct marketing to users may have facilitated the early introduction of cfDNA screening into clinical practice despite limited evidence-based independent research data supporting this rapid shift. There is a need to address the most important ethical, legal, and social issues before its implementation in a mass setting. Its introduction might worsen current tendencies to neglect the reproductive autonomy of pregnant women.

Keywords: prenatal diagnosis, Down syndrome, non-invasive prenatal testing, cell-free fetal DNA, informed consent, reproductive autonomy

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