Current prenatal diagnosis for fetal aneuploidies (including trisomy 21 [T21]) generally relies on an initial biochemical serum-based noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) after which women who are deemed to be at high risk are offered an invasive confirmatory test (amniocentesis or chorionic villi sampling for a fetal karyotype), which is associated with a risk of fetal miscarriage. Recently, genomics-based NIPT (gNIPT) was proposed for the analysis of fetal genomic DNA circulating in maternal blood. The diffusion of this technology in routine prenatal care could be a major breakthrough in prenatal diagnosis, since initial research studies suggest that this novel approach could be very effective and could reduce substantially the number of invasive procedures. However, the limitations of gNIPT may be underappreciated. In this review, we examine currently published literature on gNIPT to highlight advantages and limitations. At this time, the performance of gNIPT is relatively well-documented only in high-risk pregnancies for T21 and trisomy 18. This additional screening test may be an option for women classified as high-risk of aneuploidy who wish to avoid invasive diagnostic tests, but it is crucial that providers carefully counsel patients about the test's advantages and limitations. The gNIPT is currently not recommended as a first-tier prenatal screening test for T21. Since gNIPT is not considered as a diagnostic test, a positive gNIPT result should always be confirmed by an invasive test, such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling. Validation studies are needed to optimally introduce this technology into the existing routine workflow of prenatal care.
The cost of whole genome sequencing is dropping rapidly. There has been a great deal of enthusiasm about the potential for this technological advance to transform clinical care. Given the interest and significant investment in genomics, this seems an ideal time to consider what the evidence tells us about potential benefits and harms, particularly in the context of health care policy. The scale and pace of adoption of this powerful new technology should be driven by clinical need, clinical evidence, and a commitment to put patients at the centre of health care policy.
The use of race in biomedical research has, for decades, been a source of social controversy. However, recent events, such as the adoption of racially targeted pharmaceuticals, have raised the profile of the race issue. In addition, we are entering an era in which genomic research is increasingly focused on the nature and extent of human genetic variation, often examined by population, which leads to heightened potential for misunderstandings or misuse of terms concerning genetic variation and race. Here, we draw together the perspectives of participants in a recent interdisciplinary workshop on ancestry and health in medicine in order to explore the use of race in research issue from the vantage point of a variety of disciplines. We review the nature of the race controversy in the context of biomedical research and highlight several challenges to policy action, including restrictions resulting from commercial or regulatory considerations, the difficulty in presenting precise terminology in the media, and drifting or ambiguous definitions of key terms.
A rich literature in public health has demonstrated that health is strongly influenced by a host of environmental factors that can vary according to social, economic, geographic, cultural or physical contexts. Bioethicists should, we argue, recognize this and - where appropriate - work to integrate environmental concerns into their field of study and their ethical deliberations. In this article, we present an argument grounded in scientific research at the molecular level that will be familiar to - and so hopefully more persuasive for - the biomedically-inclined in the bioethics community. Specifically, we argue that the relatively new field of molecular epigenetics provides novel information that should serve as additional justification for expanding the scope of bioethics to include environmental and public health concerns. We begin by presenting two distinct visions of bioethics: the individualistic and rights-oriented and the communitarian and responsibility-oriented. We follow with a description of biochemical characteristics distinguishing epigenetics from genetics, in order to emphasize the very close relationship that exists between the environment and gene expression. This then leads to a discussion of the importance of the environment in determining individual and population health, which, we argue, should shift bioethics towards a Potterian view that promotes a communitarian-based sense of responsibility for the environment, in order to fully account for justice considerations and improve public health.
Children that undergo treatment for cancer are at risk of suffering from subfertility or hormonal dysfunction due to the detrimental effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapeutic agents on the gonads. Cryopreservation of ovarian tissue prior to treatment offers the possibility of restoring gonadal function after resumption of therapy. Effective counseling and management of pediatric patients is crucial for preserving their future reproductive potential. The purpose of this article is to review recent literature and to revise recommendations we made in a 2007 article. Pediatric hemato-oncology, reproductive endocrinology, surgery, anesthesia and bioethics perspectives are discussed and integrated to propose guidelines for offering ovarian cryopreservation to premenarcheal girls with cancer.
Israels rates of organ donation have been one of the lowest among developed countries. An attempt to change this has led to the introduction of a pioneering new law, the Organ Transplant Act 2008, which came into effect in January 2010 and sets out principles underlying a new policy in relation to the allocation of organs for transplantation. According to this policy, a person can gain priority points by signing a donor card, making a nondirected organ donation during their lifetime, or as a result of a first-degree relative signing a donor card, or consenting to procurement of organs after death. In this opinion piece, we argue that although this approach merits attention for its innovative aspects and its potential benefits, it raises some ethical difficulties. In particular, we discuss some problems of justice and fairness inherent in the system, focusing on inequalities because of the (a) number of relatives one might have, (b) the type of living donation one makes, (c) the potential for strategic behavior, and (d) problems regarding the consent of family members.
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