An Investigation of the Professional and Ethical Obligations of Healthcare Professionals Who Offer NIPT in the UK
Pete joined the Ethox Centre in October 2018 as a DPhil candidate under the supervision of professors Nina Hallowell, Ruth Horn, and Angeliki Kerasidou. His DPhil project investigates the ethics of prenatal testing in the UK and the provision of a relatively new antenatal screening test called non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT).
Some of the characteristics of NIPT—namely, its safety, accuracy, and non-invasiveness—differ from other prenatal tests, and theorists argue that the ethical features of the test might also differ. These differences could affect how ethical obligations related to autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice are realised in a clinical context. For example, it is not entirely straight forward what informed consent, reproductive decision-making, and a non-directive counselling style might look like in the context of NIPT given some of its unique characteristics.
It is well-known that NIPT is different from other prenatal tests, and in response, an ongoing research program has been investigating the social and ethical implications of NIPT. There are many studies looking into what lay people think of NIPT, but less evidence documenting the attitudes and perspectives of healthcare professionals. Since healthcare professional’s values, attitudes, and practices regarding NIPT affect the experience of women taking the test, it’s important to consider their views. Understanding what healthcare professionals’ experiences are in the offer of NIPT can improve medical practice and can help improve the welfare of healthcare professionals and women. Therefore, project seeks to address what healthcare professionals think about the ethical challenges arising in the offer of NIPT, and how these challenges might be resolved.
To investigate these questions, in-depth qualitative interviews are being conducted to better understand healthcare professionals’ experiences of offering NIPT to women. These interviews aim to learn what information is included in the offer, and they investigate what healthcare professionals perceive to be their ethical obligations and responsibilities toward women using NIPT. Analysing the empirical data collected from healthcare professionals together with theory found in the ethics and social sciences literatures might uncover how healthcare professionals should offer NIPT moving forward.
This DPhil is supported by a Nuffield Department of Population Health scholarship.