“A meaningful ‘YES’ is equally powerful as a well-timed ‘NO’!”
How many of us struggle to understand and comprehend every aspect of the task we are going to do in our day-to-day lives? Very similar to a situation wherein some children like biology better only because they hate mathematics! Some like to diet, while others swear by the power of exercise! Choice matters as it affects the outcome. In today’s continuously evolving digital era, choices are unlimited; and this much clutter has resulted in pushing individuals to make highly influenced choices over well-informed decisions.
Consent in Crucial
Education is essential to make good choices in life, but it does not always come with a degree. We, as humans, pick a lot of knowledge through experience and observation rather than from books. Through stories of illness and its impact on life, and the choice of vaccination for protection for a lifetime, healthcare improvement continues at a steady pace. Today educated or otherwise, people understand the need for polio vaccination, blood tests for anaemia, platelet count monitoring in dengue, heart attacks, etc. Awareness plays a double role; it gifts you the ability to fight all doubts, and it also gives you confidence on matters that need your understanding; like health.
When it comes to blood tests, many necessary organ function tests have opted for either through physician recommendation or also as a part of proactive annual checks. However, specific symptom- or need-based tests for infections, pregnancy, etc. do not have an over-the-counter kind of approach. This is only because the outcome of these reports can have a significant immediate bearing, and a clinical approach is imperative. Early trimester pregnancy screening tests include one such category. Pregnancy tests involve two lives, and at that stage, blood and serum tests are helpful to assess the well-being of both the unborn child and the mother. Thus, a basic understanding of why a test is being done; and the extent of implication it can have on the future course of action is crucial. It is also a need!
Agreeing With Full Understanding
This is where consent comes to play. “Agreeing with full understanding” is what consent means, and this is a mandate for genetic tests. Screening and diagnostic tests involving nuclear material, i.e., either DNA, RNA, or chromosomes are considered crucial, and the result can have implication not only on the person-tested but also on the family. Studying genes, in many ways, indicates identifying hereditary aspects, which makes consent important. In case of pregnancy screening tests involving genetics, recommendations revolve around identifying risk for chromosomal disorders like Down’s, Edward or Patau syndrome. Apart from Trisomy for chromosomes 21, 18 and 13, sex chromosome abnormalities are in the unborn child.
A positive indication for any of the Trisomy conditions can have a long-standing impact on the future course of pregnancy. Not every couple can be ready to tread on this knowledge-finding path and hence consent conveys the assessing need and understanding outcome implications. A consent documents;
- General description of the test and the condition
- What are the test process and the sample
- What are the possible result outcomes and what can they mean
- If the results are good to use for research purpose
- In case any emotional or physical risk is associated with the test
- If the test results will highlight health risks for other family members
- What will be the fate of the test sample after reporting
Every diagnostics consent form covers all of the points. Pregnancy screening by NIPT or non-invasive prenatal test is no exception; as it involves studying the unborn child’s DNA from the mother’s blood. Understanding that this is a screening test and should not be used to draw any obstetrical decision is crucial. This is what a consent form can facilitate. It allows the pregnant couple to interact, talk through, and understand the test, what a positive risk report can mean, and how much can a timely NIPT help draw informed pregnancy choices.
Consent is not a contract, but a voluntary admission to undergo testing.
Be informed and ensure your consent!