Presentation of the conference

Prenatal diagnostic (PD) technologies have become an important, and almost unavoidable, milestone in pregnancy care. Developed to detect severe fetal anomalies, the aim of these technologies has been to provide reproductive choice (to continue or terminate the pregnancy), prepare for outcomes (palliative care or postnatal treatment), enable therapeutic interventions (for less severe anomalies) and manage delivery at a specialist unit.

The implementation of PD at the end of the 1960's in the USA and Europe was consistent with public health policies in preventing anomalies at birth. However, the need to balance the risk of bringing a child with an impairment into the world with that of losing a healthy child (which is attached to invasive testing) modified pregnancy care practices over time.  The gradual transition to ‘therapeutic modernity’ characterised by the development of bioethics, the collective mobilisation of health services users and disabled people to protect their rights also influenced the cognitive and moral context surrounding PD. This contributed to transforming both clinical practices and official discourses. The PD rhetoric gradually moved from the field of public health and disability prevention, to that of individual autonomy and the logic of choice.  

This two-day colloquium will bring together the perspectives of researchers, professionals and support group representatives to gain insights into the way technological developments, public policy and professional norms impact upon the practices of PD and individuals’ experiences. 

PD practices and experiences will be examined from different perspectives: first, in the light of the globalisation of technical innovation and the circulation of skills and knowledge, and how these impact upon local care provision; second, through the requirements of evidence-based medicine, the democratisation of health and growing legal accountability of clinicians and how these influence professional practice. A strong emphasis will be put on the experiences of women and couples who are faced with difficult decisions (often surrounded by uncertainty) and in particular on their cognitive, moral and emotional experiences. Finally, the way biomedical or clinical markers are extrapolated into future experience of disability will also be explored as well as what PD practices reveal about perceptions of disability experience.

The knowledge and experiences shared during this colloquium will provide insights into the way the tensions between normative scientific and ethical expectations, on the one hand and the organisational constraints on the other hand, reshape the relationship of care in clinical practices; the aim being to broaden social debate, still currently limited to medical, scientific and administrative experts. 

Illustration: By Anne Mousse (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

   

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