Constructing "Best Interests": Genetic Testing of Children in Families With Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
Van Hoyweghen, Ine
Doevendans, Pieter A
Marcelis, Carlo L M
American journal of medical genetics. Part A 2011 Aug; 155A(8): 1930-8
Professional guidelines on genetic testing of children have recently shifted their focus from protecting the child's autonomous choice to professionals, together with parents, striving to work in the child's "best interest." This notion of "best interest" allows room for therapeutical as well as psychological and social considerations, and gives rise to the question how parents and professionals weigh up the child's best interest in practice. In this qualitative study, we followed six extended families involved in genetic testing for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in the Netherlands for 3½ years. In total 57 members of these families were interviewed in depth; many of them more than once. Our empirical analysis shows that the best interest of a child is constructed via long-term processes in the broader context of family and kin. In this context, "best interests" are considered and reconsidered. We conclude that a child's best interest should not be framed as the result of an instantaneous agreement between parents and professionals. In dealing with genetic testing of children, parents as well as professionals reflect on and learn from the processes of generating new meanings of "best interest." To enable professionals to deal with the variety in family life, these learning processes should be documented closely.
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