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Heather Strange: "Non-invasive prenatal testing", Cardiff,

Heather Strange: "Non-invasive prenatal testing", Cardiff,

The rapid scientific development and clinical implementation of non invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) technologies, which make use of fetal DNA found circulating in the mother's blood from an early stage of pregnancy, presents exiting new opportunities for the application and practice of both prenatal screening and diagnosis. Diagnostic tests for fetal sex (and a small number of specific disorders) are routinely used within clinical genetics and fetal medicine. NIPT screening tests for Down's syndrome have been made available to the population at large, via purchase from a number of private prenatal clinics, and are also being trialled within the NHS. With the publication of research proving that screening of the whole fetal genome is also possible via NIPT, there is much speculation over how quickly and how broadly NIPT tests may expand in scope. Building on a rich history of sociological research which highlights the significance of issues such as the routinisation of testing technologies (Rapp, Rothman), the medicalisation of pregnancy, and the normalisation of eugenic practices (Duster, Shakespeare), this study tracks the development of NIPT from its earliest stages, reflecting on how NIPT, as a technology around which healthcare, technology and capital align in specific ways, may shape experiences of pregnancy, diagnosis, disease and clinical practice. Drawing on interviews with scientists, clinicians, and parents, I will show how early encounters with NIPT shed light on how a new technology becomes aligned with routine, everyday practices, and how participants' (bio)political and moral interrogations give rise to complex and contested processes of division, classification and categorisation. I will show how encounters with this emerging technology become entangled with discussions around already-stigmatised practices and 'public secrets' (Taussig), revealing some of the complex ethical and social issues that lie at the heart of prenatal screening and diagnosis.

A Department of Sociology & Philosophy seminar
Date15 October 2014
Time15:00 to 17:00
PlaceAmory B316


Amory B316