Bioethics Forum

Good to Know? On the Responsible Use of Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT)



Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), which is conducted using a blood sample from the pregnant woman, allows the prenatal detection of various genetic conditions in the embryo, for example trisomies 13, 18 and 21. Since 2012, it has been available in Germany as an individual healthcare service, i.e. a medical service that is not covered by statutory health insurance. Following decisions by the Gemeinsamer Bundesausschuss (Federal Joint Committee), it is expected that from spring 2022, the costs for such testing will be reimbursed by statutory health insurance in justified individual cases (in pregnancies with particular risks).

While some welcome this development because they hope that the expansion of prenatal diagnostic possibilities will strengthen reproductive autonomy, others are concerned about it and fear that non-invasive prenatal diagnostics could become routine practice and lead to increased burdens for expectant parents as well as to more abortions.

The German Ethics Council already made recommendations for early genetic diagnostics back in 2013, in its Opinion “The Future of Genetic Diagnosis – from Research to Clinical Practice”. Due to current developments and considering that NIPT is already widely available and used, the Ethics Council is now revisiting the topic in an online event in order to further discuss it with experts and stakeholders. The focus is on the following guiding questions:

  • What are the arguments for and against the use of non-invasive prenatal diagnostics?
  • What should be allowed to be diagnosed? What definitely not?
  • How should appropriate counselling services be designed?
  • What would be the impact on people with disabilities and people who make a conscious decision to give birth to a disabled child, if NIPT was routinely used?

Please switch to the German version of this website to see the programme and a video recording of the event (both in German). The event is held in German.