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Prenatal DNA testing: "Comfort or conflict?"

The Associated Press tackled the issue of prenatal DNA testing in a two-part series over the weekend. The first piece, which includes the perspective of Stanford obstetrician Mary Norton, MD, focuses on a more accurate blood test for Down syndrome that is expected to come to market soon; the second discusses the implications of that test and those for hundreds of other diseases that may be made available in the next 5-10 years. Stanford law professor Hank Greely, JD, also shares his thoughts:

Greely sees... concerns. Will the testing become so routine that women won't even realize they authorized it, and then be faced with information and an abortion decision they didn't necessarily want? How can they be helped to make an informed decision on whether to be tested? And if offered a choice of genes to be tested, or results to be told about, who will help them sort through the long list to decide what they want to know? Few doctors are informed enough, and there aren't enough genetic counselors go around, he said.

The same problem arises later when it comes time to help couples understand what the results really mean, he said. "How do you tell somebody about 100 different genetic things?" he asked. "Who's going to do that? Who's going to listen to that? Who's going to pay for that?"

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