Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Another First - UK Clinic to Weed Out Embryos for Cosmetic Defects

From "Another First - UK Clinic to Weed Out Embryos for Cosmetic Defects" by Gudrun Schultz, posted 5/9/07 at

Doctors at a British fertility clinic will begin screening embryos for cosmetic defects, the first time a license to do so has been issued in the country.

A business man and his wife applied to London’s Bridge Centre family clinic for screening procedures to ensure an embryo would be created without the father’s genetic eye disorder--the man and his father both have an eye condition which gives them a severe squint.

Doctors at the clinic were granted a license to screen for the cosmetic condition by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

During the screening process, embryos conceived in a laboratory are tested at the eight-cell stage to see if they carry the potential for the unwanted disorder or characteristic. If they do, the embryo will be destroyed and doctors will test another for implant into the mother‘s womb. Previously, the use of embryo screening was limited to severe disorders such as cystic fibrosis or blood disorders.

The procedure has been condemned by critics as a eugenics tool to eliminate those seen as physically unfit from society, with embryos showing genetic markers that indicate the child may develop a disorder discarded, in favour of genetically “pure” embryos. The international pro-life movement anticipated the eventual use of embryo screening to produce “tailor-made” babies.

Prof. Gedis Grudzinskas, with the Bridge Centre clinic, told the Telegraph UK that he believes the HFEA’s decision to permit screening for an eye disorder marks the beginning of a widespread relaxation of screening rules, Prof. Grudzinskas said. “We will increasingly see the use of embryo screening for severe cosmetic conditions.”

He said he would screen embryos for hair color or any cosmetic condition that caused distress to parents.

Read the rest of this article.