Attitudes of cystic fibrosis patients and parents toward carrier screening and related reproductive issues

Eur J Hum Genet. 2016 Apr;24(4):506-12. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2015.160. Epub 2015 Jul 29.


Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a life-limiting autosomal recessive disorder affecting ~1 in 2500-4000 Caucasians. As most CF patients have no family history of the disorder, carrier screening for CF has the potential to prospectively identify couples at risk of conceiving an affected child. At-risk couples may consequently choose to act on the provided information and take steps to avoid the birth of a child with CF. Although carrier screening is widely believed to enhance reproductive autonomy of prospective parents, the practice also raises important ethical questions. A written questionnaire was administered to adult patients and parents of children with CF with the aim to explore participants' attitudes toward CF carrier screening and related reproductive issues. The study population was recruited from a CF patient registry in Belgium and comprised 111 participants (64 parents, 47 patients aged 16 or older). We found that more than 80% of all participants were in favor of preconception carrier screening for CF. However, some were concerned over potential negative consequences of population-wide CF carrier screening. Regarding future reproductive intentions, 43% of the participants indicated a desire to have children. Among these, preimplantation genetic diagnosis was found to be the most preferred reproductive option, closely followed by spontaneous pregnancy and prenatal diagnosis. Although the findings of our study suggest that patients and parents of children with CF support a population-based carrier screening program for CF, they also highlight some issues deserving particular attention when implementing such a program.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Belgium
  • Cystic Fibrosis / diagnosis
  • Cystic Fibrosis / genetics
  • Cystic Fibrosis / psychology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Heterozygote*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology
  • Patients / psychology
  • Pregnancy
  • Preimplantation Diagnosis / psychology*
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / psychology*