Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)
PGD is a technique used to test embryos created in the laboratory for genetic disabilities or sex-related disabilities such as haemophilia, which only affects boys.
A court case in April 2003 allowed PGD to be used for the first time to test for a genetic disability and at the same time select an embryo who is a tissue match. This enabled a couple to create a child who can be used to help an older brother by supplying blood, stem cells or a tissue transplant.
Once the embryo has been created and develops to the 4 or 8 cell stage, one of his/her cells will be removed. The cell contains a complete set of the embryo’s DNA. By examining the cell scientists can tell if the embryo has certain genetic conditions, whether he/she may develop a sex-related disability and whether the embryo is a tissue match for another person. If the embryo does not meet these criteria he/she will be set aside or discarded.
PGD does not prevent disability. It prevents embryos with certain disabilities from continuing to live. PGD is used to discriminate against the embryo on the basis of disability, sex and tissue type.
In some cultures, and among certain ethnic groups, boy-preference is very strong. In China and India (for different reasons) screening during pregnancy and abortion are used to eliminate unborn baby girls. PGD could be used for the same purpose.
Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis: ethical or not?
The use of PGD technology is unethical as it discriminates against individuals on account of their disability, sex and tissue type. This discrimination is fatal when those embryos discovered not to meet certain requirements are discarded. The use of PGD shows no respect for the dignity of the human individual as it accepts the destruction of human lives that fail to meet particular criteria.
PGD shows no respect for those born with disabilities as it suggests that lives affected by disability are not worth living. The use of PGD to select human embryos with a particular tissue type to provide transplants violates the right of all human individuals to be treated as valuable in themselves. Children created in this way and for this purpose are being treated as important for what they can provide, rather than for who they are.