Ethics and prenatal screening

  • Zbigniew Szawarski
Part of the Beiträge zur gesellschaftswissenschaftlichen Forschung book series (BGF, volume 23)


The Polish law on family planning, human embryo protection and conditions allowing abortion, revised in 1997, excludes the possibility of abortion due to so called social reasons, but allows abortion as stated in the following case:

“When prenatal examinations or other medical factors point to a high probability of serious and irreversible damage of the foetus or the incurable illness threatening the foetus’s life.”

Probably nobody would question the moral premises that guided the legislator in this case. If we had to choose between a healthy baby and a baby with serious and incurable genetic handicap, it would be unwise to choose a severely disabled child. Nobody capable of compassion and rational thought would willingly choose to be born instead with a severe disability or a disease, which makes a normal independent life impossible. Following the fundamental rule of morality “Love thy neighbour as you love thyself” we say, “Do not condemn your neighbour to a life that you would not willingly choose to live yourself”. If you yourself would not like to be born and live with spina bifida, hydrocephalus or a fragile X syndrome, do not force others to be born and live with them. Although genetic reasons, as understood by the general public, are the least controversial reasons for allowing abortion, moral appraisal of prenatal diagnosis is far more complicated, than one would think at first.


Prenatal Diagnosis Spina Bifida Prenatal Testing Prenatal Screening Slippery Slope 
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Copyright information

© Centaurus Verlag & Media UG 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zbigniew Szawarski

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