Friday, April 29, 2005

UK: Designer babies are a-okay.

Medical: The question I have is if the embryo is not compatible, are they going to keep it or chuck it? No slippery slope happening here right?

A husband and wife who want to create a "designer baby" to cure their seriously ill son were given the go ahead yesterday in a ruling by the House of Lords. Five law lords ruled unanimously that a technique to test whether an embryo will grow into a child whose tissue will match that of a brother or sister was lawful. The case was a victory for Raj and Shahana Hashmi, from Leeds, who won an appeal in 2003 allowing them to create a donor sibling for their six-year-old son, Zain, who suffers from beta thalassaemia major, a rare blood disorder. They hope that stem cells from a new baby's umbilical cord will cure Zain, who has painful blood transfusions every three to four weeks and drugs from a drip for 12 hours, five nights a week. The Court of Appeal ruled two years ago that the Hashmis could use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to test whether embryos are healthy, and tissue typing to ensure that cells from their next child's umbilical cord were compatible with those of their son. ....Mrs Hashmi, 41, said after the hearing that she was delighted with the ruling. "It's nice to know that society has now embraced the technology to cure the sick and take away the pain," she said. "It has been a long and hard battle for all the family and we have finally heard the news we wanted to hear. We feel this ruling marks a new era." Mrs Hashmi had twice conceived naturally in the hope of giving birth to a child whose umbilical blood could provide stem cells for Zain. On the first attempt the foetus was found to have beta thalassaemia major and she had an abortion. On the second occasion she gave birth to a child whose tissue turned out not to be compatible Alison Murdoch, the chairman of the British Fertility Society, said: "For any parents to go through what the Hashmis have been through to help their sick child proves they are wonderful parents. "Therefore, the state should back out of this and leave these decisions to the people best able to make them - the families and their doctors." A spokesman for the HFEA said: "We are pleased with the clarity that this ruling brings for patients. The HFEA will continue to consider licences for pre-implantation genetic testing including tissue testing. We will grant these where it can be shown to be necessary and desirable in providing treatment." But Life, the pro-life charity, said it was saddened by the decision to give the go ahead to produce "designer babies" to cure sick siblings. "We have every sympathy for parents of children with serious conditions and understand their desperation to find a cure but the creation of a human being to "fix" another is unjustifiable," said a spokesman."

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