We are living in what many are calling the "biotechnology" century and we are likely to face a host of ethical dilemmas that we are ill prepared for. In fact, the process is already happening because advances in so much medical care are creating difficult ethical decisions that would have been unthinkable a few decades ago. Today, however, patients and professionals have to be better prepared.
Tamara Fischmann and Elisabeth Hildt edited Ethical Dilemmas in Prenatal Diagnosis, a collection of essays based on contributions to the international conference "Ambivalence of the technological progress in medicine" which was held in September 2008 in Frankfurt, Germany
The focus of this conference was on technological developments in the life sciences which – often tacitly – confront us with new facets of a Faustian seduction. Are we "playing God more and more, as some contemporary critical authors of modernity are claiming? Achievements in genetic research produce ethical dilemmas which need to be the subject of reflection and debate in modern societies.
Denial of ambivalences that ethical dilemmas arouse constitutes a threat to societies as well as to individuals. The European study "Ethical Dilemmas Due to Prenatal and Genetic Diagnostics" investigated some of these dilemmas in detail in a field which is particularly challenging: prenatal diagnosis.
When results from prenatal diagnosis show fetal abnormalities, women and their partners are confronted with ethical dilemmas regarding: the right to know and the right not to know; decision-making about the remainder of the pregnancy and the desire for a healthy child; responsibility for the unborn child, for its well-being and possible suffering; life and death.
The genetic testing of a fetus comes with positive and negative consequences. It's a relief to learn that the fetus has no genetic diseases; it's also a relief if there is a problem that can be easily solved. It's extremely distressing, however, to learn that there is a serious genetic problem that may not be treatable. Of course such was always the case at the time of birth as well, but now parents are faced with new decisions about how to handle the genetic problems and whether to even keep the pregnancy.
There's still a lot of research to be done on this subject and this is a good source to get started learning about it.