Germany debates preimplantation genetic diagnosis

27 April 2011

Germany is considering alternative proposals for a new law on the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).

Three proposed bills were introduced to the Bundestag this month; one would create a legal ban on all use of the technique. The second bill would permit PGD where there is a risk of severe forms of inherited disease, or of significant complications of pregnancy, and the third bill is similar to the second but would require case-by-case approval for PGD from an ethics commission.
The move follows pressure for clarification of the legal position with respect to PGD; the German National academy of sciences Leopoldina has officially called for the use of PGD to prevent serious diseases to become legal (see previous news), but the opinion at the German Ethics Council is split, with a significant minority saying that  the practice is not ethically justified and should be prohibited.  
Whilst many conservative politicians including Chancellor Angela Merkel agree with this position, proponents of PGD at the German Ethics Council said that is was more morally acceptable to use PGD than to abort fetuses affected by genetic diseases, which is legal.

Comment: German policy typically adopts a highly conservative position with respect to bioethical issues, but the existing discrepancy whereby termination of pregnancy on medical grounds is legal but PGD is not, technically, is finally causing many to reconsider their views. A final vote on the issue is expected in June this year, but which way it will go remains unclear. 

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