Medical Practice

Social Effects of Genetic Counselling

Br Med J 1973; 1 doi: (Published 24 March 1973) Cite this as: Br Med J 1973;1:724
  1. Alan E. H. Emery,
  2. Muriel S. Watt,
  3. Enid Clack


    In a follow-up study of 104 subjects referred for genetic counselling between 1965 and 1969 all were at risk of having children with a variety of serious genetic disorders. Most subjects were in social classes III and IV, were married, in their late 20s, and already had an affected child. Sixty-three per cent. were referred by hospital consultants, 27% by their general practitioners, and 10% were self-referrals. All of those counselled appeared to have appreciated the genetic implications, although four overestimated the risks and 11 underestimated the risks.

    Of those at high risk (greater than 1 in 10) of having an affected child 10 out of 55 couples “planned” further pregnancies despite the risks. In two this was because they had been unable to adopt a child, in four because they had no living children and the disorders in question usually resulted in stillbirth or death in infancy so that the “burden” of an affected child would be of relatively short duration, and one mother had had antenatal diagnosis and selective abortion. Most of the couples in the low-risk group (less than 1 in 20) were reassured and planned further pregnancies.

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