Ethics: ethical and social professional responsibilities in prenatal genomics
In the next decade, advances in non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) will lead to a significant increase in the clinical uses of genomics in reproductive medicine both privately and through publicly-funded healthcare. Important ethical questions are raised by the uses of these technologies. Most studies investigate patients’ perspectives on the use of NIPT but very few studies actually explore the attitudes of those developing and implementing new types of prenatal testing in practice.
This project will examine stakeholders’ attitudes and perceptions of their responsibilities in implementing NIPT in the clinic. Concerns are often raised that NIPT may undermine informed consent, normalise prenatal testing (and termination of pregnancy) and be used to test for an increasing number of genetic conditions of which some could be ‘minor’ conditions or non-disease traits. Providing an account of the ethical and social responsibilities of healthcare professionals and researchers driving innovation in prenatal technology is essential to address fundamental questions around the potential impact of NIPT and how best to safeguard good ethical practice.
This project will involve empirical bioethics methods which combine philosophical and ethical analysis with empirical research.
First, the student will conduct a conceptual analysis of the arguments employed in bioethics, philosophical and public health literature. The focus will be on theories of professionalism and scientific responsibility, and the impact of this knowledge on the shaping of public healthcare policies (social epistemology).
Second, the student will conduct qualitative research to examine stakeholders’ beliefs and perceptions regarding their role and obligations in delivering prenatal genomics.
RESEARCH EXPERIENCE, RESEARCH METHODS AND TRAINING
The project will provide a range of training opportunities in empirical bioethics research methods, including literature review, conceptual ethical analysis, qualitative research, data analysis.
field work, secondments, industry placements and training
Qualitative interviews will be required with professionals working in genomics in the clinical and in the research setting across the UK.
This project would suit a candidate with a background in social sciences or philosophy wishing to develop expertise in the field of empirical bioethics with an interest in genomics, new technologies, and health care.