Following a two-year public consultation, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the Human Genetics Commission have announced that there is wide support for embryo screening - otherwise known as preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) - for couples where there is a family history of serious genetic disorders. The two organisations said the consultation showed that 70 per cent of respondents were in favour of the procedure, whilst only twenty per cent of respondents said that the licensing procedures should further limit the technique because it involved discarding human life. Some said that PGD procedures were eugenic.
Medical, consumer, religious and charity groups were involved in the consultation. Overwhelmingly, it was agreed that PGD should not be made available for the creation of so-called 'designer babies', and 81 per cent of the respondents believed that the technique should be limited to cases where there is a known family history of a serious genetic disorder.
As a result of the findings of the consultation, the joint working party of the two organisations recommended that PGD should only be available if there is 'serious risk of a serious genetic condition being present in the embryo'. It also said that human leukocyte antigen testing - where an embryo is selected on the basis that the resulting child can provide tissue for transplant to a family member - cannot be recommended 'without further discussion'.
The report also issues guidance upon which any decisions to provide PGD to a couple should be based. These include the likely degree of suffering that any resulting child might suffer, the availability of effective treatment now or in the future, the speed of degeneration in progressive diseases and the extent to which an affected individual would be intellectually impaired.