Legal Issues: Genetic Testing and Discrimination

AuthorMaureen McTeer
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– chapter thirteen –
Legal Issues: Genetic Testing
and Discrimination
Genetic testing in the eld of human reproduction can be used to detect
whether a fetus or embryo carries a gene that will cause or predispose
the embryo to a serious or fatal genetic disease. Genetic testing for the
developing fetus in a woman’s womb has been available for many years.
Should a serious or fatal abnormality be found through such tests, the
pregnant woman would have to decide whether to continue the preg-
nancy or undergo an abortion.
Canadians who know they carry a hereditary genetic disease that
could be passed on to their children can undergo assisted human repro-
duction using IVF. In this case, genetic testing of the embryo can be done
using a process called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), where
one or more cells of the early embryo can be removed and examined.
Usually, two to four cells are removed from the day ve or six blastocyst.
No harm is caused to the embryo by this procedure. Should a known
genetic anomaly be found, then a woman can decide not to transfer any
aected embryos in her attempt to achieve a pregnancy.
e use of genetic testing in reproduction has raised concern among
rights advocates and those living with disabilities. e fear is that this can
lead to discrimination against individuals and groups living with known

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