human embryos be screened for genetic defects? Page 3
Zinser investigates this morally thorny issue.
No doubt there must be some people out there
who know what it feels like, and who still maintain a staunch
position against screening and genetic selection of embryos.
That is their right. They may argue that we're not eliminating
a disease, per se, but a whole person-and that medicine would
be better off focussing on curing the disease rather than
eliminating the people that carry them. When put in such terms,
it almost carries the same unpleasant whiff mat was used to
justify ethnic cleansing. And put in those terms, they score
But say you have decided in favour of embryo
selection. Is this the end of all your troubles? Perhaps not.
IVF has come a long way in terms of success rates, since its
own conception 35 years ago, but it's not a procedure that
is either pain-free or guaranteed. You don't always become
pregnant during a course of IVF treatment the average couple
needs three rounds of IVF before producing a baby-and it's
expensive, around £3,000 per cycle. In the case of genetic
screening for FAP, approximately half of a couple's embryos
will be screened out, reducing the odds for success still
further. There are risks associated with fertility drugs,
such as ovarian hyperstimulation, and also the possibility
of an increased risk of ovarian or breast cancer in later
life. IVF pregnancies are more likely to result in premature
births, with an additional increased risk of congenital abnormalities
like heart defects or cerebral palsy.
However, even the increased risks associated
with IVF are in reality very small-and most would say irrelevant-in
relation to those that already face a family with a known
and serious problem like FAP.
In the end, the debate does not rage because
of science, or the lack of it. The debate rages because of
the visceral and deeply-seated views of humanity and life
that lie at me core. The real nub of the problem is that the
arguments both for and against are extremely emotive.
The sheer pain of watching your child being
diagnosed with a crippling illness is emotive. Holding your
child's hand as they lie helplessly in Intensive Care, wrapped
in a cold forest of tubes and drips is emotive. Helping them
try to thread their lives together after major surgery is
emotive. Watching them undergo surgery after surgery with
no guarantee of a cure is emotive. Burying a beloved child
who has suffered years of needless and undeserved pain is
emotive. Indeed, it is torture.
But then, take a look at one of your children
today and imagine-for an instant-that they didn't exist because
you had screened them out before they had a chance. You would
never have seen the twinkle in their little eyes when they
were excited, never have felt their warm, spontaneous cuddles,
never felt their soft breath on your cheek, nor heard the
soft chime of their voice in your ear. This too is emotive.
Imagine that you'd never have seen them on their first day
at school, nervous and out of place in their new, too-big
Pretend that you'd never have sat in the
audience, wiping away a tear as you watched them mumble their
lines in their first school play. Imagine that you'd never
given the loving face that smiles at you as you kiss them
goodnight the chance to exist, that you had decided they shouldn't
Isn't this also emotive?
The fact that
the HFEA has offered people a choice is no crime and
shouldn't even be up for debate. Nobody is forcing anyone
to screen their embryos for defects, nor forcing them
to terminate a life. People who wish to let nature take
its course are still entitled to do just that, and those
that wish to prevent a terrible disease in their future
children are now also being given a chance.
to approve screening for FAP should be welcomed, and
while all views are valid, it's time to accept that
we all have a choice, and will all exercise it differently.