With the reduction in diseases due to nutritional deficiencies and infection, disorders which are wholly or partly genetic are becoming relatively more important in all branches of modern medicine. Genetic counselling has developed in recent years from just explaining to an individual or a couple the risk of them producing a handicapped child, to the possibility in many cases of better diagnosis and active intervention to reduce the risks. At the same time antenatal screening programmes have been introduced to detect women who may be carrying a fetus with a severe handicapping anomaly. The ethical aspects of these advances are considered in this article. A practical approach to the resolution of any dilemmas is proposed which concentrates on the duties incumbent on doctors and other health care workers involved with patients who have or may carry genetic disorders.
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