Since the inception of the field of genetic counseling, the profession has had a tenuous relationship with the disability community. Genetic counselors both offer prenatal diagnostic testing that allows individuals the opportunity to avoid the birth of a child with a disability and they advocate for the rights of individuals who have a disability. Some in the disability rights community have argued that they feel their lives and the lives of the disabled individuals in their families judged by the offer of prenatal genetic diagnosis and by the attitudes of genetic service providers they encounter in clinical settings. Select voices from the disability community fear that the result of developing technologies may contribute to a world less tolerant of disabilities. The available empirical data suggest that genetic counselors do little to counteract these perspectives. Although limited, investigations into the attitudes and practices of genetic counselors suggest that they have a more negative perspective on disabilities than individuals whose lives are directly affected by them and these attitudes may affect their description of disabling conditions in a prenatal setting. The National Society of Genetic Counselors, the organization that represents the profession in the US has more publicly aligned itself with abortion service providers over disease advocacy organizations, thus subjecting itself to the perception of bias. We suggest possible solutions to these criticisms and argue that individually and collectively, genetic counseling professionals should develop and identify opportunities to more fully support and advocate for the needs of a broader spectrum of clients.
Copyright © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.