The German parliament has legalised pre-implantation
genetic diagnosis after a long debate over three competing proposals. The bill was
passed on a conscience vote. PGD involves testing a cell from an early-stage embryo
for genetic defects. If the embryo is unsuitable, it is destroyed.
Three bills were put forward. One proposed an
absolute ban on PGD on the grounds that the possible rejection of embryos with faulty genetic make-up would endanger
"societal acceptance of diversity" by increasing pressure on couples to
have a normal child. One proposed a ban, with a small number of exceptional cases
which would be defined as “non unlawful”.
The successful proposal
allows PGD on a very restricted basis. Only couples who have a history of genetic
disease or whose pregnancy would result in a stillbirth or miscarriage will be eligible.
Counselling for them will be mandatory to avoid abuse; an ethics committee must
agree; and the procedure will be available only at a few licensed centres.
PGD has been legal in
the US and other European countries since the early 1990s. But in Germany the idea
was fiercely controversial, for anything smacking of eugenics reminds voters of
Nazi policies. Many Christian Democrats voted against the bill, as did many Greens.
~ Reuters, July 7