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Genetic Screening Of Embryos Is Immoral


25 January 2001

Graham Capill
Party Leader


“Chromosome screening of embryos for IVF purposes, is morally reprehensible and should be outlawed immediately,” Party Leader Graham Capill said today.

Mr Capill was commenting on a decision of the National Ethics Committee on Assisted Human Reproduction, to permit Fluorescent In-Situ Hybridisation (FISH) – the technique used to test embryos for suitability for IVF treatments.

“While it may be tempting to use such techniques to enhance the poor success rate of IVF procedures, it is morally wrong to destroy any embryo on the basis it is less than 'ideal' for transplantation into the womb.

“The decision allows scientists and doctors to play God with life. Unwanted human beings are discarded in preference to more ‘perfect’ ones.

“Once this practice gains acceptance, there is no logical argument to prevent it being extended. The age at which the life of an embryo is terminated could be increased. Treatment could be refused for those with disabilities the medical profession judge not suitable to receive it. Even the sex of the embryo could become the determinant of whether it lives or dies.

“Already Dr Fisher, from Fertility Associates, has indicated that the technique can be used to screen for a wide range of genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis. He has confirmed it will be used for Downs syndrome and Turners syndrome. Even sexing the embryos will be done in an attempt to identify sex-determined conditions, such as haemophilia and muscular dystrophy. In my opinion, this is the beginning of eugenics, despite protestations to the contrary.

“There is also the question of what will happen to discarded embryos. Will donors be asked to authorize medical research on rejected embryos, given they are to be destroyed anyway? No doubt scientists will argue that not to use such embryos would be a wasted opportunity. Nevertheless, it opens another moral Pandora’s box.

“If New Zealand allows this screening, what is there to stop research being done on ‘stem cells’, as has recently been allowed in Britain? Surely the difference is only one of degree, between an embryo as unsuitable for IVF transplantation and modifying it to make it more likely to implant in the womb.

“The end does not justify the means. Medical advances that involve the destruction of embryos (who are, we must remember, small human beings), are not advances at all. The human embryo has a special status and we owe it all the dignity we ascribe to mature adults,” Mr Capill concluded.

Christian Heritage urges the government to close the legal loophole that has allowed this decision to be made, and ensure that the law prevents experimentation, research and the destruction of all human embryos.

Contact: Party Leader Graham Capill, Direct Line: (03) 352 6720 or (021) 661 766

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