Thursday, December 15, 2005

Pre-implantation genetic screening of embryos

Currently the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority are working on a consultation around the screening of human embryos for genetic diseases pre-implantation. Already there are screens available for fully penetrative diseases like cystic fibrosis, where the parents have the option to select only embyos without the disease. This consultation is whether to genetically test for other diseases that aren't necessarily fully penetrative, like breast cancer. Where the genetic element only leads to an increased risk, rather than being difinitive in terms of inheriting a disease.

This obviously raises many moral and ethical questions, is it right to positively select against embryos (with the potential to be human beings) on the grounds that they will or may get a genetic disease. For example, the embryo discarded may well have developed into a human who discovers some new cure, whilst dying young because of a genetic disease. Is it right for us to determine what 'quality of life' is, and what genetic illnesses are bearable? Just look at the recent trial of Mr Wragg and his diminished responsibilities in killing his son who was suffering from Hunter's syndrome. It's quite a difficult issue to comment on, not having any first hand experience with such genetic diseases as familial cancer or cystic fibrosis etc.

However, if you wish to comment on this consultation then you can at:

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