Experiencing new forms of genetic choice: findings from an ethnographic study of preimplantation genetic diagnosis

Hum Fertil (Camb). 2004 Dec;7(4):285-93. doi: 10.1080/14647270400016449.


Contemporary scientific and clinical knowledges and practices continue to make available new forms of genetic information, and to create new forms of reproductive choice. For example, couples at high risk of passing on a serious genetic condition to their offspring in Britain today have the opportunity to use Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) to select embryos that are unaffected by serious genetic disease. This information assists these couples in making reproductive choices. This article presents an analysis of patients' experiences of making the decision to undertake PGD treatment and of making reproductive choices based on genetic information. We present qualitative interview data from an ethnographic study of PGD based in two British clinics which indicate how these new forms of genetic choice are experienced by patients. Our data suggest that PGD patients make decisions about treatment in a complex way, taking multiple variables into account, and maintaining ongoing assessments of the multiple costs of engaging with PGD. Patients are aware of broader implications of their decisions, at personal, familial, and societal levels, as well as clinical ones. Based on these findings we argue that the ethical and social aspects of PGD are often as innovative as the scientific and medical aspects of this technique, and that in this sense, science cannot be described as "racing ahead" of society.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anthropology, Cultural*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Patient Participation
  • Pregnancy
  • Preimplantation Diagnosis* / economics
  • Preimplantation Diagnosis* / methods
  • Preimplantation Diagnosis* / psychology
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted