Moving up the slippery slope: Mandated genetic screening on Cyprus


  • Ruth Schwartz Cowan

    Corresponding author
    • University of Pennsylvania, History & Sociology of Science, Claudia Cohen Hall, 249 S. 36th Street, Room 324, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6304.
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    • Ruth Schwartz Cowan, an historian of science, technology and medicine, is Janice and Julian Bers Professor of the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Her most recent book is Heredity and hope: the case for genetic screening (Harvard University Press, 2008).

  • How to cite this article: Cowan RS. 2009. Moving up the slippery slope: Mandated genetic screening on cyprus. Am J Med Genet Part C Semin Med Genet 151C:95–103.


Many social scientists and bioethicists have argued that genetic screening is a new form of eugenics. Examination of the development of the quasi-mandated screening program for β-thalassemia in the Republic of Cyprus (1970–1984) demonstrates that there is nothing eugenic about modern genetic screening practices. The Cypriot screening program involves mandated premarital carrier screening, voluntary prenatal diagnosis (originally through fetoscopy, now through CVS), and voluntary termination of afflicted pregnancies—all at public expense. In the Republic of Cyprus, the mandating agency for genetic screening is the established church, so this examination also demonstrates that religious authorities with profound objections to abortion can balance that moral precept against others, such as the imperative to reduce suffering that sometimes conflict with it. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.