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Medical Ethics. A Finding of Nonpaternity

Introduction

Jennifer C is a 19 months-old baby who has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that is autosomal recessive. The characteristic pattern of the disease is that a child inherits its gene from both parents, with each of them being a carrier (Rosaler, 2006). Jennifer’s parents have been married for three years, and they are anxious to find out the probability of getting another child suffering from this disorder. They are referred to a genetic counselor that performs a DNA test on them to determine their carrier status. The laboratory results indicate that while Jennifer’s mother is a carrier, her husband is not. Additionally, the DNA analysis shows that, clearly, he is not the biological father of Jennifer.

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This case presents a moral dilemma for both the genetic counselor and Jennifer’s mother on the best way to go about his case. The dilemma for the counselor is whether he should inform the couple about the findings of the DNA test and in doing so jeopardize their young marriage, or talk to the mother privately first about the issue. On the other hand, should Jennifer’s mother identify the real biological father so that the genetic counselor can notify him that it is almost certain that he is a carrier of the cystic fibrosis gene?

Analysis

The case is undoubtedly a moral conflict that involves both Jennifer’s parents and the genetic counselor. From the findings of the DNA testing, it is obvious that the husband of the mother is not the biological father of the baby, raising speculation that she may have been cheating on her husband. If the counselor decides to tell the couple the truth, it might jeopardize the young couple’s marriage, probably leading to a separation or divorce that may harm their ability to give Jennifer the care and upbringing that she needs in order to cope with the disorder. Should the counselor decide to hide the truth, it will still lead to some complications since for the disease to be transmitted to the child, both parents must be carriers, and if it is found out that the father is not a carrier, questions will linger on how Jennifer contracted the disease. Moreover, such a decision would lead to the real biological father not knowing his carrier status, thus standing the risk of him fathering other children who might contract the disease (DeGrazia, Mapples & Brand-Ballard, 2010).

Each of the three characters in the case has responsibilities and obligations on the best way to go about this case. Jennifer’s mother has an obligation of coming clean about the truth concerning the paternity of the child. Since the DNA test is unlikely to be wrong, she should talk to her husband about who the father is and under what circumstances Jennifer was fathered. While this may lead to a conflict and the possibility of an end to their short marriage, the truth cannot be hidden forever. The sooner it comes out, the better for the couple. On the other hand, Jennifer’s father has an obligation of accepting the truth and coming up with the best solution to the conflict. The health of the child is at stake because for her to cope well with the disorder, she needs the care and support of both parents. Thus, the father must come up with the best solution so that the child can access the best treatment for the condition. The genetic counselor also has the role of ensuring that the truth is communicated to the concerned characters. He should present the findings of the DNA test in the right manner that will lead to a smooth solution. The solution must ensure that Jennifer gets the care and support necessary to cope with her condition. Also, he should ensure the real father knows of his cystic fibrosis carrier status for the better of the children he fathers in the future (Stewart, 2009).

Perhaps the most appropriate theory that can assist in solving this case is Kant’s deontological theory. This theory is an example of deontological ethics that judges morality by examination of the will of the agents involved and the nature of the actions, as opposed to the goals achieved. It simply states that one should do unto others as he or she would want them to do unto him or her. It also means that if a rule governing a certain action cannot be made universal, then it cannot be accepted (Stewart, 2009). The decisions to be made in this case are the responsibility of the three characters, with the genetics counselor bearing the weight of the most responsibility since he has the wisdom and knowledge when it comes to such matters. However, the power to decide lies in Jennifer’s parents, as it is their child who is involved as they look for a solution that will determine whether their subsequent children will suffer from the condition or not. The likely consequences of the decision might touch on the health of Jennifer together with how she copes with the condition. The final decisions are likely to determine whether or not Jennifer’s parents separate. As such, the issue of where Jennifer ends up will certainly be determined by these decisions (DeGrazia, Mapples & Brand-Ballard, 2010).

Decision and Justification

Therefore, in accordance with this case, the best solution to the dilemma would involve all three characters in the case. The genetics counselor should first privately inform Jennifer’s mother of the findings of the DNA testing. Once this is done, the mother should then inform her husband about the paternity of the child. She should do it in an honest and convincing manner to avoid any conflict that may lead to separation or jeopardize their marriage. The counselor should also take some measures to extract the identity of the real father from Jennifer’s mother so that he can inform him of his carrier status (Stewart, 2009).

This decision was arrived at after considering all the moral and legal aspects of the case, as well as the health of Jenifer C, who is suffering from cystic fibrosis, a condition in which the sufferer requires a lot of attention, support, and care from family members, especially in the case of young children. On the bright side, since it has been diagnosed that the father is not a carrier of the cystic fibrosis gene, then it is unlikely that the subsequent children that the couple gets will suffer from the condition. Someone else analyzing this case would have come up with a different decision due to several reasons, the main one being the theory used. Since not all the theories are similar to the Kant theory applied in this case, then the philosophy and terms of any other case applied may lead to a different conclusion and eventually a different solution.

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References

DeGrazia, D., Mappes, T. A., & Brand-Ballard, J. (2010). Biomedical Ethics. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Rosaler, M. (2006). Cystic Fibrosis. Los Angeles, CA: The Rosen Publishing Group.

Stewart, N. (2009). Ethics. New Jersey: Polity.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 28). Medical Ethics. A Finding of Nonpaternity. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/medical-ethics-a-finding-of-nonpaternity/

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 28). Medical Ethics. A Finding of Nonpaternity. https://studycorgi.com/medical-ethics-a-finding-of-nonpaternity/

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"Medical Ethics. A Finding of Nonpaternity." StudyCorgi, 28 Dec. 2021, studycorgi.com/medical-ethics-a-finding-of-nonpaternity/.

1. StudyCorgi. "Medical Ethics. A Finding of Nonpaternity." December 28, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/medical-ethics-a-finding-of-nonpaternity/.


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StudyCorgi. "Medical Ethics. A Finding of Nonpaternity." December 28, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/medical-ethics-a-finding-of-nonpaternity/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Medical Ethics. A Finding of Nonpaternity." December 28, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/medical-ethics-a-finding-of-nonpaternity/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Medical Ethics. A Finding of Nonpaternity'. 28 December.

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