Switzerland will hold a constitutional referendum on June 14 to decide whether to legalize preimplanation genetic testing. Swiss law currently only permits three embryos to be created in IVF treatment because this is the number which can be immediately implanted. If the constitution is altered, it will be possible to create 12 embryos, some of which could be tested for genetic diseases and the others can be frozen.
While nearly all the political parties support the amendment, it faces a substantial opposition. Marco Romano, a parliamentarian for the centre Christian Democrats, was in favour of it until he spoke to doctors in a clinic:
“I spoke at length with a professor and I had the impression that the specialists want to use anything that technology makes possible, to the point of playing with life, reducing it to a point that is almost banal …
“In the United States, 10% of testing is used to determine the sex of the child. In Switzerland, the parliamentary debate very clearly showed the willingness of some people to go even further. In accepting PGD, we open a door and we don’t know exactly where it will take us.”
The news agency SwissInfo says that Switzerland is actually a “hardliner”, compared to other countries. Of 15 countries in Western Europe, 12 legalised PGD long ago. Even under the proposed legislation, “saviour siblings” would still be banned.
Political scientist Georg Lutz, of the University of Lausanne, told SwissInfo that voters are split on the issue:
“ it’s really hard to find any clear trends: voters of the parties on the left and right were divided and the only clear smaller trend was that people who attend religious services were more likely to be in favour of protection from manipulation and against stem cell research. The other small trend was that the French-speaking part of Switzerland leans slightly more towards science than the German-speaking part. But there’s no age difference, no enormous gender difference.”
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