Intervention Against Genetic Disease: Economic and Ethical Considerations

  • J. Michael Swint
  • Michael M. Kaback
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 21)


In this paper we examine some of the economic and ethical consequences associated with genetic screening and intervention — a field that is expanding rapidly as technology is making possible the prenatal detection of an increasing number of genetic diseases. In 1983 the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation conducted a worldwide survey which revealed that 352 medical genetics facilities in 45 countries provide prenatal diagnostic services in early pregnancy [22]. These developments have all occurred since the first reports of intrauterine fetal kerotyping in 1967. We provide information on the trade-offs between economic and ethical consequences of expanding the screening efforts for three genetic diseases. We believe that these types of considerations are particularly important given the rapid advancement and diffusion of technological capabilities in this field. Victor Fuchs correctly asserts:

No nation is wealthy enough to supply all the care that is technically feasible and desirable; that is, to supply presidential medicine for all. However, it would be a great mistake to turn physicians into explicit maximizers of the social cost benefit ratio in his or her daily practice. But the trade-offs must be made. Usually the best time for making such decisions is during the evaluation of the costs and benefits of new facilities and the development and diffusion of new technologies ([10], p. 1572).


Down Syndrome Prenatal Diagnosis Spina Bifida Neural Tube Defect Abortion Service 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Michael Swint
    • 1
  • Michael M. Kaback
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Public HealthUniversity of Texas Health Science CenterHoustonUSA
  2. 2.School of MedicineHarbor-U.C.L.A Medical CenterLos AngelesUSA

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