Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search


Who gets born?

19 June 2008

Who gets born?

Advice to government on new biotechnologies

Pregnancy tests, blood tests and ultrasounds are routinely offered to expectant mothers as part of their programme of pre-natal care.

These, and other forms of pre-birth testing, can be used to identify genetic disorders, diseases and physical disorders such as Cystic Fibrosis and Down syndrome.

Thousands of women undergo screening every year and enjoy routine pregnancies.

But pre-birth testing also allows many families to avoid having children who suffer from painful, disabling or fatal conditions, and allows others time to adjust to a baby being born with a disability or a medical condition.

Technology is rapidly expanding the range of tests available – and expanding the range of choices parents and society are faced with in deciding who gets born.

Over the course of a year Toi te Taiao: the Bioethics Council engaged New Zealanders on these issues through a process of intensive deliberation. Deliberation encourages people to move beyond individual preferences to consider the needs of the whole community.

More than 700 joined in – both in person and online.

It’s the first time such an approach has been used to inform New Zealand policy makers on public opinion.

Today the Bioethics Council releases its advice to Government on pre-birth testing.

Entitled Who Gets Born? the report contains recommendations to Government on the cultural, spiritual and ethical issues associated with pre-birth testing, in light of public opinion and the implications of rapidly changing technology.

Bioethics Council Chair Associate Professor Martin Wilkinson says the time was right to engage with New Zealanders.

“Parents are facing more choices as the range of pre-birth testing expands, and Government is working on new guidelines to govern the growing availability – and consequences – of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.”

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD, is the testing of embryos created outside the mother’s body.

“Take IVF for example. Most people think of it as a way to allow people with fertility problems to have a baby.

“But access to PGD means people who don’t necessarily have fertility problems may decide to use IVF for a different reason, namely to test embryos for genetic conditions. Only embryos that don’t have the condition are implanted.”

Martin Wilkinson says considerations around pre-birth testing aren’t only medical.

“They touch on cultural, spiritual and ethical issues - and these were at the fore when we set out to find out what people really thought and felt.

“These recommendations come from the Bioethics Council, but they also reflect the feedback of those who helped frame the range of possible approaches to pre-birth testing and consider their consequences.

“For many New Zealanders this is a very emotional issue and we’re privileged so many engaged so thoughtfully and passionately,” Martin Wilkinson says.

Who Gets Born? is available online at


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


By May 2018: Wider, Earlier Microbead Ban

The sale and manufacture of wash-off products containing plastic microbeads will be banned in New Zealand earlier than previously expected, Associate Environment Minister Scott Simpson announced today. More>>


Snail-ier Mail: NZ Post To Ditch FastPost

New Zealand Post customers will see a change to how they can send priority mail from 1 January 2018. The FastPost service will no longer be available from this date. More>>


Property Institute: English Backs Of Debt To Income Plan

Property Institute of New Zealand Chief Executive Ashley Church is applauding today’s decision, by Prime Minister Bill English, to take Debt-to-income ratios off the table as a tool available to the Reserve Bank. More>>


Divesting: NZ Super Fund Shifts Passive Equities To Low-Carbon

The NZ$35 billion NZ Super Fund’s NZ$14 billion global passive equity portfolio, 40% of the overall Fund, is now low-carbon, the Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation announced today. More>>


Split Decision - Appeal Planned: EPA Allows Taranaki Bight Seabed Mine

The Decision-making Committee, appointed by the Board of the Environmental Protection Authority to decide a marine consent application by Trans-Tasman Resources Ltd, has granted consent, subject to conditions, for the company to mine iron sands off the South Taranaki Bight. More>>