Why Screening?

  • Niklas JuthEmail author
  • Christian Munthe
Part of the International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine book series (LIME, volume 51)


In order to determine whether a certain screening programme should be implemented or not, one has to ponder the basic issue of why such an effort may be worthwhile at all. That is, in order to provide a rationale or justification for any screening programme one has to have some idea about the values that the programme should promote. Of course, whatever values a certain screening programme may promote, this promotion has to be balanced against the potential drawbacks of the programme. Thus, as already mentioned, much ethical debate about screening is cast in terms of some kind of cost benefit-analysis. It must be noted, though, that in the context of an ethical analysis, terms such as “cost” and “benefit” must be understood very broadly. They can only partly be translated into straightforward monetary figures, since the values and drawbacks often regard qualities mentioned in basic ethical theories, like autonomy, justice, or well-being. Moreover, unlike monetary costs, it cannot be taken for granted that these values can or should be traded off against each other in any way imaginable. To substantiate more particular ideas on what values may motivate what costs or sacrifices in terms of other values and in what way, explicit (and thereby controversial) moral premises need to be a part of the argument.


Down Syndrome Screening Programme Prenatal Diagnosis Screen Programme Public Health Perspective 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Karolinska Institutet Dept. Learning, Informatics, Management & Ethics (LIME)StockholmSweden
  2. 2.Dept. Philosophy, Linguistics & Theory of ScienceUniversity of GöteborgGöteborgSweden

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