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Twin saviour siblings born in the UK

17 August 2009
Appeared in BioNews 521

Twins born following IVF treatment to select embryos which would be a tissue match for their elder brother are thought to be the first incidence in the UK of multiple 'saviour siblings'. Out of just twelve licences granted by the UK's regulatory body, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), to permit families to use tissue typing to create a so-called saviour sibling, only this one has resulted in twins.

Laurence Maguire, 42 and Wendy Plant, 37, decided to try and have a saviour sibling when a worldwide search for a bone marrow donor for their eldest son, Connor, failed. Connor suffers from aplastic anaemia, a condition in which the immune system destroys parts of the bone marrow causing life threatening anaemia. The condition can be treated by with immunosuppressant drugs and regular blood transfusions, but the only prospect of a cure is to have a bone marrow transplant from a tissue-matched donor. Mr Maguire and Ms Plant created five embryos following IVF, two of which were found to be a tissue match for Connor and were implanted into Ms Plant.

The controversy over so-called 'saviour siblings' centres around the idea that couples might wish to have a child as a 'means to an end'. Some argue that this raises concerns over the welfare of the child, who may perhaps not feel as valued as they would if they were conceived under normal circumstances and may even be put under unreasonable pressure to 'save the life' of their sick sibling. However, speaking to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Mr Maguire defended the family's decision to have a sibling to help their eldest son: 'Once you see your children, any notion that they are spare parts is gone. We wouldn't change anything, they are our children and we love them all. I never ever think that we didn't have the twins for the right reason.'

The twin's umbilical cord blood will be stored at St Helier Hospital in Carshalton in case their brother's condition deteriorates in the future.

Britain's only saviour sibling twins
The Daily Telegraph |  9 August 2009
Saviour siblings - the controversy and the technique
The Daily Telegraph |  10 August 2009
'Saviour' twins are more than just spare parts, says father
The Daily Mail |  10 August 2009
10 January 2011 - by Dr Jay Stone 
A life-saving tissue transplant from a 'saviour sibling' has been carried out entirely in Britain for the first time....
20 October 2008 - by Ailsa Stevens 
Last week saw the birth of Spain's first so-called 'saviour sibling' - a term used to describe babies conceived following embryo testing to ensure their umbilical cord blood will provide tissue-matched stem cells for an existing sick child. It is hoped that stem cells from baby 'Janvier's' cord...
9 April 2008 - by Sheila AM McLean 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill, currently making its way through the UK's Parliament, marks the first major re-think of the original Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, passed in 1990. In the almost 20 years since the Act was passed, new medical developments and techniques have emerged which raise...
7 May 2005 - by Professor Sally Sheldon 
The recent House of Lords decision in Quintavalle (on behalf of Comment on Reproductive Ethics) v HFEA [2005] represents what will hopefully be the last stage in a long legal battle for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Raj and Shahana Hashmi. The Hashmis have a son of...
6 September 2004 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
Today we report that the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has decided to allow Joe and Julie Fletcher to conceive a so-called 'saviour sibling' for their sick son, Joshua. Those that have followed this debate over the past few years will know that the Fletchers are not the...
13 April 2004 - by Juliet Tizzard 
This week BioNews reports on another 'saviour sibling' case, which has come to light in the United Kingdom. Joe and Julie Fletcher are hoping to have preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) with tissue typing in order to conceive a child who will be a matched tissue donor for their son, Joshua...
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