Author Topic: Oversold Prenatal Tests Spur Some to Choose Abortions [Boston Globe]  (Read 1089 times)

Offline Catholic Economist

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From today's Boston Globe: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/12/14/oversold-and-unregulated-flawed-prenatal-tests-leading-abortions-healthy-fetuses/aKFAOCP5N0Kr8S1HirL7EN/story.html

The point of the article is that many of the genetic-based screens used to flag abnormal conditions during pregnancy have shockingly high rates of false positives (i.e. identifying an abnormality where none exist) and false negatives (i.e. failing to identify an abnormality when one is present).

For example:

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Two recent industry-funded studies show that test results indicating a fetus is at high risk for a chromosomal condition can be a false alarm half of the time. And the rate of false alarms goes up the more rare the condition, such as Trisomy 13, which almost always causes death.

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And there are other emerging concerns about the new generation of prenatal tests. Two Boston-area obstetricians, with funding from a testing company, recently sent samples from two nonpregnant women to five testing companies for analysis. Three companies returned samples indicating they came from a woman who was carrying a healthy female fetus.

Of course this inevitably ends up in tragedy:

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Now, evidence is building that some women are terminating pregnancies based on the screening tests alone. A recent study by another California-based testing company, Natera Inc., which offers a screen called Panorama, found that 6.2 percent of women who received test results showing their fetus at high risk for a chromosomal condition terminated pregnancies without getting a diagnostic test such as an amniocentesis.

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And at Stanford University, there have been at least three cases of women aborting healthy fetuses that had received a high-risk screen result.

“The worry is women are terminating without really knowing if [the initial test result] is true or not,” said Athena Cherry, professor of pathology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, whose lab examined the cells of the healthy aborted fetuses.

In one of the three Stanford cases, the woman actually obtained a confirmatory test and was told the fetus was fine, but aborted anyway because of her faith in the screening company’s accuracy claims. “She felt it couldn't be wrong,” Cherry said.

While medical science has undoubtedly helped to save countless lives, one unfortunate consequence of  the general decline in mankind's loss of  faith has been an overdependence on "science". There is a world of difference between what science actually is  and what people think "science" is. Unfortunately, this discrepancy is often acknowledged by professionals, but little is done to correct it due to self-interest and lethargy (or so I've found).

I apologize for the dour tone, but articles like this tend to depress me immensely. To think of how many lives have been wasted.
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Offline Lydia Purpuraria

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Re: Oversold Prenatal Tests Spur Some to Choose Abortions [Boston Globe]
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2014, 07:56:30 AM »
Horrible.  But, I believe it.  I will say, though, that at least in my doctor's office, they tell you there can be/are a lot of false positives.  (I don't get the tests either way, but thought I'd give them some credit)