human embryos be screened for genetic defects?
Zinser well known for her book The
Good Gut Guide
this morally thorny issue.
The issue of screening human embryos has
dominated the media in recent months. Groups-both for and against-have
represented their views, and the debate rages on.
Families who are genetically susceptible
to Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) have dominated the
current debate, for it is these people who have just been
allowed by the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority)
to screen embryos in an effort to prevent the tragedy and
misery that this dreadful condition brings.
Previously it was only untreatable illnesses
like cystic fibrosis and Huntingdon's disease that were granted
permission for embryonic screening. Then recently, the HFEA
gave the go-ahead for the technique to be used so that embryos
could be selected purely because they are a tissue match for
a sick sibling.
||And now families with FAP
have been given permission. Why? In FAP, the faulty gene
(found on chromosome no. 5) exerts a huge influence in
causing active disease to develop with it; there is an
80% chance of the aggressive cancer developing. Another
disease with this high a level of risk is the genetic
form of breast cancer, whose faulty genes BRCAI and BRCA2
also give an 80% risk of cancer development in carriers.
(This is still awaiting HFEA approval, however.) Although
F AP generally occurs earlier than in the 'genetic' cases
of breast cancer (FAP typically strikes during an affected
person's 20's and 30's), treatment of both involves gruelling)
major surgery with no guarantee of eliminating the disease
Pro-life groups such as Comment on Reproductive
Ethics have been vocal in their disapproval of embryonic screening
advances. Speaking to The Times recently, spokeswoman Josephine
Quintevalle. Says, "We are not thinking about curing
the disease but about eliminating the carrier."
It's an interesting point. With a huge family
history of breast cancer Jackie Hunter writes in a letter
to the press that she also feels anger at the decision to
allow embryo screening, because if this had happened 100 years
ago, her entire family would now not exist. She points out
that genes for disease aren't, perhaps, everything: "As
well as our forefathers having cancer genes, they blessed
us with entrepreneurial genes, artistic genes, literary genes,
loving genes - indeed a veritable cornucopia of positive,
wonderful genes." A persuasive argument.