Science and society: genetic counselling and customary consanguineous marriage

Nat Rev Genet. 2002 Mar;3(3):225-9. doi: 10.1038/nrg754.


Consanguineous marriage is customary in many societies, but leads to an increased birth prevalence of infants with severe recessive disorders. It is therefore often proposed that consanguineous marriage should be discouraged on medical grounds. However, several expert groups have pointed out that this proposal is inconsistent with the ethical principles of genetic counselling, overlooks the social importance of consanguineous marriage and is ineffective. Instead, they suggest that the custom increases the possibilities for effective genetic counselling, and recommend a concerted effort to identify families at increased risk, and to provide them with risk information and carrier testing when feasible.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bias
  • Consanguinity*
  • Culture
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Female
  • Genes, Recessive
  • Genetic Counseling*
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / genetics
  • Genetics, Population
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Marriage
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Environment