Risk and reproductive decisions: British Pakistani couples' responses to genetic counselling.
How far does ethnicity/culture/religion mediate couples' responses to genetic risk? This paper examines the responses of 51 British Pakistani couples referred to a genetics clinic in southern England to counselling about recurrence risks for genetic problems in children. It is based on fieldwork conducted between 2000 and 2004 that combined participant observation of genetics consultations with interviews in respondents' homes. Interviews were conducted with 62 adults in connection with these 51 cases, of which 32 were followed through two or more clinical consultations and 12 through more than one pregnancy. Risk responses were categorized as: taking the risk; postponing; exploring risk management or dismissing the risk as irrelevant to current circumstances. Responses were cross-referenced for associations with the severity of the condition, number of affected and unaffected children, availability of a prenatal test, age, gender, and migration history. I found that most couples were initially risk-takers who already had an unaffected child or children. Couples caring for living children with severe conditions were more likely to postpone. However, the risk responses of 15 couples changed over time, most towards and some away from risk management, reflecting changes in couples' appreciation of the severity of the condition and their subsequent reproductive experiences. The study highlights the diversity and dynamism of responses within one ethnic group and challenges stereotypes about cultural and religious responses to genetic risk.