Genetics, heritability and family histories: materialising the healthy egg donor in clinical screening practices
(De Montfort University )
Cathy Herbrand (De Montfort University)
Catherine Coveney (University of Sussex)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores how a variety of screening techniques are framed as promissory strategies in the context of egg donation. It considers how screening tools and the knowledges they produce, materialise a particular construction of the idealised, healthy donor.
Paper long abstract:
Media reporting of a small number of high profile cases in which serious genetic conditions have been inadvertently passed from donor to offspring serve to generate ideas about the potential for genetic risk in donor conception. Current guidance in the European context suggests that egg donors should have no known serious genetic conditions in their family history and additional screening should only be offered where additional risk factors, such as those associated with particular ethnicities, exist. More recently, expanded carrier screening tools are being used routinely in some contexts to identify carriers of recessive conditions amongst all prospective donors. These changes appear to mark a move towards the expansion of genetic testing for donors.
Our paper explores how a variety of techniques, which offer to screen for risk of genetic disease, are framed as promissory strategies in the use of egg donation. Drawing on data from an ESRC-funded study on egg donation in the UK, Belgium and Spain, it considers how professional and policy rationalities, screening tools and the knowledges they produce, materialise a particular construction of the idealised, healthy donor who is free from genetic illness and risk. We consider whether these tools may be part of a set of increasingly commercialised choreographies within egg donation in Europe.
Promissory encounters? Exploring innovations at the intersection of reproduction and genetics from a feminist STS perspective