Clinical genetics encompasses a wider range of activities than discussion of reproductive risks and options. Hence, it is possible for a clinical geneticist to reduce suffering associated with genetic disease without aiming to reduce the birth incidence of such diseases. Simple cost-benefit analyses of genetic-screening programmes are unacceptable; more sophisticated analyses of this type have been devised but entail internal inconsistencies and do not seem to result in changed clinical practice. The secondary effects of screening programmes must be assessed before they can be properly evaluated, including the inadvertent diagnosis of unsought conditions, and the wider social effects of the programmes on those with mental handicap. This has implications for the range of prenatal tests that should be made available. While autonomy must be fully respected, it cannot itself constitute a goal of clinical genetics. The evaluation of these services requires interdepartmental comparisons of workload, and quality judgements of clients and peers.
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