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Hashmis fail in 'saviour sibling' attempt

9 July 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 266

Raj and Shahana Hashmi, the couple who fought for the right to have a tissue-matched IVF baby to save the life of their son Zain, are stopping treatment after six unsuccessful attempts. The couple's doctors are now reluctant to continue because of Shahana's age (40), and because of the stressful effects of the treatment, the Mail on Sunday reported last week. The Hashmis told the newspaper they might still use two frozen embryos from previous treatments, and also hoped to try gene therapy for Zain.

Five-year old Zain Hashmi has thalassaemia, an inherited blood disorder that might be cured with a blood stem cell transplant from a tissue-matched donor: the stem cells could be taken from the umbilical cord blood from a newborn baby. The Hashmis were the first UK couple to apply for permission to use PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) in conjunction with IVF to conceive a so-called 'saviour sibling'. By using PGD to carry out genetic tests on IVF embryos, they hoped to conceive a baby that was both free from thalassaemia, and a matched donor for Zain.

The procedure was authorised by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in 2001, but this decision was challenged in the High Court by a pro-life group. The High Court ruled that the authority did not have the power to authorise the tissue typing procedure. However, in April 2003, the UK Court of Appeal allowed the HFEA's appeal against the decision, which meant that the couple could proceed with the treatment.

The Hashmis have undergone six cycles of IVF treatment during the last two years, including one that lead to a pregnancy, but later miscarried. After the last attempt, the couple had three embryos that were a perfect match for Zain, but all three failed to develop when returned to the womb. Shahana said: 'I had convinced myself that this was going to be the time we got a chance to save Zain's life', adding 'we feel so, so, sad'. But she also said that they may still decide to use two frozen embryos from previous treatment cycles, and would also push for gene therapy to replace the faulty gene causing Zain's condition.

Simon Fishel, who treated the couple at the CARE fertility unit at the Park Hospital in Nottingham, said that the Hashmis had given other couples hope. Two other families are apparently undergoing the same procedure at the clinic, and a further three applications are being considered.

Hashmis fail in designer baby cure for son
ITV Yorkshire |  4 July 2004
Our designer baby dream is over
The Mail on Sunday |  4 July 2004
19 July 2004 - by BioNews 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is reported to be considering changing its policy on 'saviour siblings' - babies who are able to provide genetically matched cord blood for an existing sick child. The news follows a recent request from the Fletcher family, who are seeking permission to conceive...
8 July 2003 - by Josephine Quintavalle 
What was described by the media as either the 'designer baby' or the 'Hashmi' case was, in effect, neither. The legal arguments in the courts were directed exclusively at the governance of policy making in assisted reproduction. Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE) argued that, in 1990, Parliament did not give...
19 May 2003 - by BioNews 
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...
15 April 2003 - by Dr Colin Gavaghan 
A] defeat for society at large and certainly an overwhelming defeat for Parliamentary democracy.' So read the response from Josephine Quintavalle, Director of CORE (Comment on Reproductive Ethics), to April's UK Court of Appeal decision concerning tissue typing. The Court had reversed an earlier decision, in which a judge had...
11 April 2003 - by Dr Helen Watt 
What does it mean to be a good parent, in a situation like the Hashmis'? This may seem an odd question to ask about an exemplary mother and father: after all, are not the Hashmis doing everything they can to save their child? Zain does not, it is true, need...
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