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Americans support most uses of reproductive genetic testing, report on US attitudes reveals

A majority of Americans believes it is appropriate to use reproductive genetic testing to avoid having a child with a life-threatening disease, or to test embryos to see if they will be a good match to provide cells to help a sick sibling, a new report of the Genetics and Public Policy Center reveals. However, most Americans believe it would be wrong to use genetic testing to select the sex or other non-health related, genetic characteristics of a child.

"Public debate and media coverage of reproductive genetic technologies hide a surprising level of concordance among Americans for using genetic testing to identify risks of disease," says Kathy Hudson, director of the Johns Hopkins University-affiliated Center, which evaluated the study. "But we also found that Americans fear a world where using genetic technologies may compromise many of the values our society holds sacred."

The results of what is believed to be the largest public opinion survey ever conducted of American attitudes toward genetic testing reveal that more than 67 percent of Americans approve of genetic testing of embryos during in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures to select those embryos free of a fatal disease-causing gene mutation to transfer to a woman's uterus. High levels of support for this application are shared across most demographic groups - men, women and different racial and ethnic groups; lowest levels of support (49 percent) are found among fundamentalist and evangelical Christians. Perhaps surprisingly, a majority (52 percent) of those who assign human embryos maximum "moral worth" - deserving of utmost respect and protection - also approve of this application.

The report includes results from qualitative and quantitative studies of how Americans feel and think about reproductive genetic testing and how these technologies might best be regulated. Supported by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Center's research included 21 focus groups, 62 in-de
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Contact: Rick Borchelt
rborche1@jhu.edu
202-663-5971
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
18-Feb-2005


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