To Test or Not to Test, Is There Even a Question?

September 9, 2012
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Often society questions whether or not a particular scientific advancement is a positive or negative occurrence. One of these controversial innovations is the use of prenatal testing in modern pregnancies. Prenatal testing involves processes such as amniocentesis and chronic villus sampling (CVS) which are able to accurately foretell the possibility that an expecting mother may run the risk of having a child with a range of disorders. Prenatal testing can provide needed options, relieve stress, supply the opportunity for a safer birth and most importantly give couples who are expecting a child with certain disorders time to prepare for the difficulties ahead. It is for these reasons that despite all rival comments, prenatal testing is a beneficial medical advancement and should remain a legal option in Canada.

A rising concern in this option-providing procedure is the chance of false positives, regardless of the reality that these are becoming much less common as technology advances. In fact, tests such as sonograms have an accuracy of over 85% for spina bifida and “(amniocentesis and CVS) can detect or rule out Down syndrome and other diseases, including cystic fibrosis, with almost 100 percent accuracy” (Brophy). Also some families find that any answer is better than none, as a positive result gives them the option to do research on options or future plans while “a negative result can offer peace of mind” (Brophy). Also if a result is positive, it is most certain that there will be a series of option follow-up tests done which nowadays ensure that the margin for error is virtually non-existent. All things considered, today’s accurate prenatal testing can ease the minds of anxious parents everywhere.

These same anxious parents worry that certain tests such as amniocentesis can increase the risk of miscarriage however it is impossible to ignore that the safety benefits following many procedures are numerous as well. Not to mention that the risk posed by amniocentesis is less than 0.5% whereas the results are guaranteed to be accurate. Also amniocentesis along with other tests such as sonograms, monograms and ultrasounds are able to determine whether or not a fetus is healthy and developing normally. This is, as researcher David May puts it, “priceless information for expectant parents” (May). In addition, the more the doctors know about a pregnancy the better. If baby is going to be born prematurely, needs immediate aid upon being born or will not survive a natural birth, adequate measures can be taken that could help save lives. The numerous safety advantages prenatal testing ensures is something that should not, cannot and will not be overlooked.

Other than the plentiful safety advantages that prenatal testing provides, another aspect of the process that should not be overlooked is that it gives expecting parents whose child has been diagnosed with a disorder time to prepare.“‘If you know you're having a baby with Down syndrome, you may want to change the nursery you've prepared, or decide not to take that job halfway across the country and stay close to family and friends,’ says Eugene McMahon, a pathologist and medical director of Franciscan Shared Laboratory in Milwaukee.” (Brophy) Parents may want to have time to consider and research options they have for their child’s needs such as parenting techniques, education, and health plans. Also preparation-time involves treatment options for the expecting mothers which can lower the chance that their child will suffer from other abnormalities caused by their illness that could be life threatening. For example people with Down syndrome have increased risk of heart complications and infection, along with mild to severe mental retardation. Parents may also want time to mentally prepare themselves for the task of raising a child that will need special attention. Prenatal testing can give future parents options and most importantly time to digest difficult information.

Prenatal testing, despite all adversity, should absolutely remain legal as it has proven itself a valuable asset in the medical world and for expecting couples near and far. It provides parents with options, ease any stress about the health of their baby, allow opportunities for a safer pregnancy and more secure birth, and give parents who are expecting a child with disabilities time to prepare themselves for the challenge. A reminder that all these helpful tests are simply offered- not mandatory-so in truth, all that is being done is providing a service, providing an option, providing a freedom and providing a liberty to a nation. It is with this in mind that Canadians should ask themselves why they should be disallowed any valid choice.

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S.Wilson said...
Sept. 20, 2012 at 8:55 pm
Great job on your research! You make some very strong points. I agree; the risks are far too outweighed to cause concerns about the procedure. Also, thanks for providing future reference for the steps to take after having positive results.
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