A Framework for Unrestricted Prenatal Whole-Genome Sequencing: Respecting and Enhancing the Autonomy of Prospective Parents

Am J Bioeth. 2017 Jan;17(1):3-18. doi: 10.1080/15265161.2016.1251632.


Noninvasive, prenatal whole genome sequencing (NIPW) may be a technological reality in the near future, making available a vast array of genetic information early in pregnancy at no risk to the fetus or mother. Many worry that the timing, safety, and ease of the test will lead to informational overload and reproductive consumerism. The prevailing response among commentators has been to restrict conditions eligible for testing based on medical severity, which imposes disputed value judgments and devalues those living with eligible conditions. To avoid these difficulties, we propose an unrestricted testing policy, under which prospective parents could obtain information on any variant of known significance after a careful informed consent process that uses an interactive decision aid to deliver a mandatory presentation on the purposes, techniques, and limitations of genomic testing, as well as optional resources for reflection and consultation. This process would encourage thoughtful, informed deliberation by prospective parents before deciding whether or how to use NIPW.

Keywords: children and families; clinical genetics; decision making; disability; informed consent; reproductive technologies.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making / ethics
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Genetic Testing / ethics
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / ethics
  • Parents
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / ethics*
  • Social Responsibility
  • Whole Genome Sequencing / ethics*
  • Women's Rights / ethics*