Decisions About Testing and Termination of Pregnancy for Different Fetal Conditions: A Qualitative Study of European White and Pakistani Mothers of Affected Children

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The aim of this study is to explore reasons for and against prenatal testing and termination for a range of conditions in women from two different ethnic backgrounds. A total of 19 Pakistani and European women in West Yorkshire, UK, who either had a child with a genetic condition or had terminated a pregnancy for one, completed a questionnaire about their attitudes regarding prenatal testing and termination for 30 different fetal conditions and were interviewed about their reasons for their responses. There were more similarities than differences between the Pakistani and European white women. The most important factor in most women's decisions about termination of pregnancy was their perception of the quality of the life of a child with the genetic condition, in particular, whether the child would be “suffering.” This was described as either physical suffering, as a result of medical treatment, or as emotional suffering, as a result of psychological and/or social factors. These findings highlight the need for detailed information about the potential quality of life for the child and the child's family to enable parents to make informed choices, particularly the extent to which the child is likely to suffer, the nature of such potential “suffering” and the extent to which the child could lead a “normal” life. The findings also challenge stereotypes about cultural differences in attitudes about termination of pregnancy.

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