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Decision 'by Easter' in Hashmi case

7 April 2003
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 202

The UK Court of Appeal is deciding whether Raj and Shahana Hashmi, the British couple who want to use 'tissue typing' to have a child, will be allowed to continue in their attempts to do so. They are attempting to conceive a child who would be a possible cord blood donor for their son Zain, who has the potentially fatal disease beta-thalassaemia.

The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) decided to allow the use of the procedure in December 2001 after a request from the Hashmis. Shahana Hashmi began IVF treatment last year, but was unsuccessful. Last December, after a successful challenge by pro-life campaigner Josephine Quintavalle of the pressure group Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE), the UK High Court ruled that the HFEA had acted outside of its powers in allowing the procedure. But the judge gave permission for an appeal.

The HFEA launched an appeal last week. In a rare move at the Court of Appeal, Shahana Hashmi was allowed to personally address the court and pleaded with the judges to help to save her son. She told the court 'we have heard a lot of ethical, moral and legal wrangles here. Zain is a little boy who suffers desperately day in and day out and we have to watch him suffer. Any child brought into our home will be fiercely protected. We don't wish any harm to our children'. A lawyer representing the HFEA in court said that allowing tissue-typing was just one step on from PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis) , which is already allowed in the UK to screen for diseases, adding 'the authority is not suggesting there should be a free-for-all. Far from it'.

Judgement in the case has been reserved, but a decision is expected 'before Easter'. The Hashmis have since told a Sunday newspaper that if the appeal fails they will go to the US for the treatment, 'if things go our way, we'll finish the treatment here. If they don't we'll fly out to the United States. We're not going to give up'. The HFEA have already said that it will appeal all the way to the House of Lords if this appeal fails. Suzi Leather, chair of the authority, said 'it is important to recognise that what is at stake is not only the future of these families, but many other families that suffer from serious genetic conditions'.

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