Italian court ruling favours pre-implantation genetic diagnosis

9 October 2007

In Italy, a Sardinian court has ruled that gynaecologist Giovanni Monni must provide pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) for a couple who are beta-thalassaemia carriers, the BMJ has reported [Turone F (2007) BMJ 335, 687]. Beta-thalassaemia is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder caused by mutation in the beta-globin gene; individuals who inherit two faulty copies of the gene suffer from severe (and potentially fatal) transfusion-dependent anaemia. Carrier frequency for defective beta-globin genes in the Sardinian population is high, at around 10%.

Dr Monni supported the couple’s request for PGD, but was prevented from doing so by Italy’s restrictive legislation on aspects of in vitro fertilisation (see previous news), which does not permit the procedure. The court’s decision followed an earlier hearing by a constitutional court, where it was ruled that the ban on PGD was part of health ministry defined guidelines, as opposed to law, and thus not a violation of the constitutional right to health.

The couple in question had reportedly already travelled to Turkey for PGD and are expecting a baby, but have said they will have the embryos created in Italy implanted to establish another pregnancy as soon as possible, if they are shown by PGD to be free from beta-thalassaemia.

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