Prenatal Testing: Individual Decision or Distributed Action?

The aim of this project is to examine the individual and un-dividable character of decisions in the course of prenatal testing. 


BMBWK Research project within the Accompanying Research Programme ELSA within the Austrian Genome Research Programme GEN-AU.  




The research focuses processes that contribute to an individualization of responsibility for decisions in the context of prenatal examinations. How does it happen that women feel that they need to take a decision of their own for which they are responsible alone?

Using an empirical study we will reconstruct the process that made nondirective counselling to a prerequisite for prenatal testing. In particular we will give attention to the Austrian situation. We take as our theoretical standpoint “actor network theory” (Callon/Latour) and particularly the concept of “distributed action” (Rammert/Schulz-Schaeffer). Through this innovative analysis we will critically counter personalistic ethics that concentrate on the “individual decision” of an “autonomous individual”. On this basis we will inquire about an organisational ethics of distributed responsibility and develop new perspectives for counselling related to prenatal testing.

The project is distinguished by a number of notable international co-operations. In the course of an international symposium these co-operations will become beneficial for the project. The project results will be discussed and evaluated among experts and colleagues in the research field. Further steps of implementation can be undertaken in the course of university lectures. A fellowship programme (Institute for Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Society) carried out by the IFF should be particularly mentioned in this respect as well as an annual “International Summer Academy on Technology Studies”. Both activities are outstanding opportunities for an integration of the project into an international academic discourse.

Research Topic