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Attitude of Saudi families affected with hemoglobinopathies towards prenatal screening and abortion and the influence of religious ruling (Fatwa)

Authors: Fowzan S. Alkuraya and Ramzi A. Kilani*
Department of Pediatrics, King Khaled University Hospital-King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

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Hemoglobinopathies are common inherited disorders in Saudi Arabia. Prenatal diagnosis for such diseases
is specific and sensitive but not yet implemented in Saudi Arabia. Saudis are Muslims with a very high rate
of consanguinity and inherited genetic disorders. To examine the attitude of Saudi families affected with
hemoglobinopathies towards prenatal diagnosis and abortion, and to evaluate the effect of education on
religious ruling on such attitudes, 32 families were interviewed using a pre-structured questionnaire. The
majority accepted prenatal diagnosis (81.3%). The attitude towards abortion was greatly affected by
religious values. Education about religious ruling significantly affected parents’ attitude towards accepting
abortion and prenatal diagnosis. No other factors were found to influence the outcome. Although the
majority of families received some kind of formal genetic counseling [23/32 (71.9%)], none of them was
informed about the possibility of prenatal or preimplantation diagnosis prior to the interview. Therefore for
prevention of genetic disorders, the emphasis in countries with a vast majority of Muslims such as Saudi
Arabia has probably to be placed on public awareness about genetic risks, the risk of consanguinity,
availability of services, and so on, while at the same time taking into consideration the religious beliefs and
education of the target population