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Germany allows PGD for life-threatening genetic defects

11 July 2011
Appeared in BioNews 615

The German parliament has passed a new law allowing PGD in limited circumstances.

Under the new law, couples can use PGD to screen embryos only if the parents have a predisposition to a serious genetic illness. All applications for PGD must be pass an ethics panel and couples are required to undergo counselling. The bill outlines an exception to the Embryo Protection Act 1990 that bans PGD, which remains intact.

Those opposing the bill raised fears of creating 'designer babies' , as well as voicing concern over disability rights. 'Parents should not have to apologise if they do not have a so-called perfect baby', said Wolfgang Zöller of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, an affiliate of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU). 'Right to life must not be brought into question', he added.

In support of the legislation, Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen said: 'So-called 'designer babies', which would be musically gifted or athletic or have blue eyes, are a fantasy... It's about severe illness of individual cases'. Those in favour argued PGD will prevent numerous medically necessary abortions and still births. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel and leader of the CDU has expressed her opposition to the legislation.

After a tense, three and a half hour long debate, the results of the free vote in the lower house of the Bundestag showed clear support for the highly controversial bill, with 326 votes (across all parties) in favour, 260 against and eight abstentions.

Dr Frank Ulrich Montgomery, head of the German Medical Association, emphasised the strict conditions accompanying PGD. 'There will be no designer babies and also no so-called saviour babies used as spare parts for a sick child', he said to ensure that PGD would not become a routine procedure or method of non-medical sex selection.

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