A judge in Italy ordered that a couple undergoing IVF treatment had to implant all the embryos created, regardless of any genetic condition the embryos might carry. Under Italian law made earlier this year (see newsletter article February 2004), reproductive techniques are restricted. The law bans freezing and destroying embryos and all embryos created by IVF, limited to three oocytes, must be implanted into the woman. The couple in this case both carry the recessive gene for thalassaemia and had wanted to have pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to determine which embryos were healthy, as they did not want to have to abort the pregnancy, and decided to challenge the law on this point. They lost their case and were required to implant the embryos. The British Medical Journal reported that the judge stated that, according to the new law, the woman did not have the right to choose to have a healthy baby (BMJ 2004 328, 1334). Shortly after the transfer, the woman suffered a haemorrhage and lost the embryo, which was later shown to be healthy. The woman claims that the haemorrhage was likely brought on by stress.

The strict fertility law is also being blamed for driving non-sterile couples out of Italy to other countries for treatment, as the law limits any fertility treatment to couples proven sterile. The BMJ notes that specialists and researchers in the field are also leaving. In addition, centres are reporting that success rates in women over 35 are dropping and multiple pregnancies in women younger than 35, who are often implanted with three embryos, are increasing.

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