Counselling following diagnosis of fetal abnormality: a comparison between German, Portuguese and UK geneticists

Eur J Hum Genet. 1994;2(2):96-102. doi: 10.1159/000472349.


The principle of non-directiveness in genetic counselling is embraced by all relevant professional bodies. Little is known about the extent to which it is endorsed by geneticists, or incorporated into their clinical practice. The aim of the current study is to document how geneticists in three European countries, Germany, Portugal and the UK, report counselling women at risk for having children with a range of conditions. While geneticists in all three countries reported counselling in a largely non-directive style, this varied both across genetic conditions and between countries. German and Portuguese geneticists were significantly more directive than UK geneticists, although they differed in the way in which they were directive. German geneticists were more likely to encourage continuation of pregnancies, while Portuguese geneticists were more likely to encourage termination of affected pregnancies. There was no strong consensus on approaches to counselling for any of the genetic conditions, defined as agreement between 70% of all three groups of geneticists. Despite strong professional codes of non-directiveness, geneticists report being somewhat directive in some counselling situations. Future research needs to focus on what geneticists are trying to achieve in genetic counselling, how they actually counsel, and with what effects.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / psychology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Chromosome Aberrations / psychology*
  • Chromosome Disorders
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Genetic Counseling / methods*
  • Genetic Counseling / statistics & numerical data
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn*
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Internationality*
  • Patient Participation
  • Portugal
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women
  • Professional Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom