Answered by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
Please could you tell me whether it is permissible for me to work as a clinical molecular geneticist (UK) where I will be doing prenatal diagnostic testing for a syndrome (Fragile X) which results in mental retardation, given that the family may choose to have an abortion if the result is positive (the unborn child has a mutation in the particular gene). My role in the job is to do the laboratory molecular testing and to report the results. I would not be involved in making clinical decisions as to what the family should do about the results.
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
It would be, in principle, permissible for you to work as a clinical molecular geneticist and carry out tests in order to diagnose fragile X syndrome; even if that means that a patient may opt to have an abortion.
If the result is positive and the patient chooses to have an abortion, then that would not be considered being a cause for a sin, because it is something that the patient and her family will decide for themselves.
However, this ruling is subject to two conditions:
Firstly, you must refrain from forwarding any advice with regards to aborting the pregnancy. You may carry out the tests, inform the patient of the results and then leave the rest for her and her family to decide.
Secondly, If you know from beforehand (by the patient informing you herself, for example) that a particular patient has an intention of aborting the pregnancy if the results are positive, then you should avoid carrying out the tests on that particular patient, for that is considered to be disliked (makruh).
The jurists (fuqaha) mention that actions that may be an indirect cause for a sin will be Makruh if one has knowledge that a sin will be committed due to this action, even if one’s action in itself is not a direct cause for a sin. Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) has stated the detestability of selling weapons to those known for misusing them in violence. (See: Radd al-Muhtar `ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, Bab al-Bay)
All of the above is presuming that fragile X syndrome is not an Islamically justified reason for carrying out abortion.
I am not an expert, thus cannot state exactly what this syndrome is, but the following is what I read upon it:
Fragile X syndrome is a hereditary condition which causes a wide range of mental impairment, from mild learning disabilities to severe mental retardation. It is the most common cause of genetically-inherited mental impairment. In addition to mental impairment, fragile X syndrome is associated with a number of physical and behavioural characteristics.
It affects individuals in a wide variety of ways. Some individuals experience significant challenges because of the effects of fragile X, while the impact on others is so minor that they will never be diagnosed.
Now, the ruling on abortion is that, (as explained in an earlier post) if there is certain danger and risk that the child will be born with severe disabilities or diseases that which will cause him relentless pains and also it will be an undue burden for the parents, then in such a case, aborting the pregnancy will be permissible, provided this is prior to four months of pregnancy.
Thus, if a case of fragile X syndrome is extreme, in that the child will have to suffer greatly, abortion would be permitted. In such a case, your job would be without doubt permissible.
And Allah knows best
Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
Darul Iftaa, Leicester, UK