How will new genetic technologies, such as gene editing, change reproductive decision-making? Views of high-risk couples

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Couples at increased risk of having offspring with a specific genetic disorder who want to avoid having an affected child have several reproductive options including prenatal diagnosis (PND) and preimplantation genetic testing (PGT). In the future, non-invasive prenatal diagnosis (NIPD), germline gene editing (GGE) and somatic gene editing (SGE) might become available. This study explores if, and how, availability of new genetic technologies, including NIPD, GGE, SGE, would change reproductive decision-making of high-risk couples. In 2018, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 25 genetically at-risk couples. Couples previously had received genetic counselling for PND and PGT, and in most cases opted for (one of) these techniques, at one Dutch Clinical Genetics Center between 2013 and 2017. Considerations participants mentioned regarding the hypothetical use of NIPD, GGE and SGE, seem similar to considerations regarding PND and PGT and are reflected in underlying concepts. These include safety and burden for mother and child, and moral considerations. Couples generally favoured NIPD over PND as this would be safe and enables earlier diagnosis. Increased opportunities of having a 'healthy' embryo and less embryo disposal were considerations in favour of GGE. Some regarded GGE as unsafe and feared slippery slope scenarios. Couples were least favourable towards SGE compared to choosing for a genetic reproductive technology, because of the perceived burden for the affected offspring. With the possibly growing number of technological options, understanding high risk couples' perspectives can assist in navigating the reproductive decision-making process. Counsellors should be prepared to counsel on more and complex reproductive options.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-50
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Human Genetics
Issue number1
Early online date9 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

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