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Genetic testing of embryos to become legal in Germany

Report of a story in the news   |   By Dr Philippa Brice   |   Published 25 July 2011

Sources: Deutsche Welle news, BMJ news

The German Bundestag has voted to permit pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) for couples at high risk of serious genetic diseases. 

PGD will only be allowed where the prospective parents have a genetic predisposition to a serious disease that could be passed to their offspring, resulting in a high probability of miscarriage or stillbirth, or causing significant suffering in surviving children. Ethics committee approval will be required for every potential application, and couples will also be required to receive counselling prior to procedures. Over 320 members voted in favour, with 260 against and eight abstentions. The Christian Democrats are reported to have been broadly opposed to the decision with the Social Democrats in favour. 

Comment:

The German government has voted for the most liberal of the three options under consideration (see previous news), despite widespread concern that it is an affront to the dignity of human embryos and could reduce social acceptance of disability. However, the chosen option is hardly reckless; the ethical safeguards to be put in place and the restriction of the use of PGD only to the most serious medical conditions mean that the technique will be used rarely and only in a careful and considered way to prevent suffering. Moreover, this avoids recourse to termination of pregnancy, which is already legal in such circumstances. 

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