The UK Court of Appeal gave detailed reasons last week for its decision in April to allow Raj and Shahana Hashmi to proceed with IVF treatment with embryo tissue typing in order to attempt to have a child who could save their existing son, Zain. Zain has thalassaemia, an inherited blood condition, which might be able to be cured by a transplant of umbilical cord blood stem cells from a sibling with matching tissue. None of the Hashmis' other children are a tissue match for Zain.
The three appeal court judges stressed that their decision did not mean 'a free for all' in cases of this type. In allowing the appeal by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) against an earlier decision in the High Court, in which it was ruled that the authority did not have the power to authorise the tissue typing procedure, Lord Justice Schiemann said, 'it does not mean that parents have a right to in IVF for social selection purposes'. He added that Parliament was 'not opposed in principle to doing to an embryo any of the things which are likely to happen to it if the decision of the Authority is implemented'.
Lord Phillips stated that 'IVF treatment can help women to bear children when they are unable to do so by the normal process of fertilisation. Screening of embryos before implantation enables a choice to be made as to the characteristics of the child to be born with the assistance of the treatment'. He added 'whether and for what purposes such a choice should be permitted raises difficult ethical questions. My conclusion is that parliament has placed that choice in the hands of the HFEA'.
The Hashmis will begin their third attempt at IVF this week, under the care of Nottingham's CARE at the Park hospital.