BBC News

On Friday, 23 February, 2001, BBC NEWS caried an item entitled "Parents 'misled over gene disorders'" It described a study by Lenore Abramsky and colleagues from Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine, in London, UK, who interviewed 29 health professionals who had recently informed parents that their apparently normal fetus was carrying an extra sex chromosome.

It appeared that some parents were being given misleading information when they were first informed that their unborn child had a sex chromosome disorder, and some women may have been deciding to have abortions on the back of this poor advice.

One health professional had said the disorder was "as devastating as Down's syndrome" with a possibility of mental retardation, while another said the child would be a "perfectly normal baby" who would go to a normal school and grow up normally. In all, the authors found enormous variation between different health professionals in what they knew, thought, and told parents about specific sex chromosome anomalies.

One woman was told her unborn son had the condition Klinefelter's Syndrome and had an abortion without even seeing a genetics expert after a doctor told them their child would be mentally retarded.

Ms Abramsky said the problem tended to centre on the initial phone call informing the parents that there was a potential problem. Typically, these calls were made by a midwife whom the parents had never met, or had met only once before. However, she told BBC News Online that there was no evidence that all parents were given the correct diagnosis, but that the information they received about their child's condition was first rate when they got to see a specialist in genetic medicine.

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Bland, J., (2003) About Gender: BBC News
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Last amended 02.11.03