German parliament OKs genetic embryo tests

The tests look for genetic disorders in embryos before they are implanted in the womb.

Berlin: After an emotional debate, German
lawmakers on Thursday voted to allow a procedure that looks for
genetic disorders in embryos before they are implanted in the

Lawmakers voted 326-260 to permit the procedure known
as preimplantation genetic diagnosis under strict conditions
after a debate that crossed party lines. Eight lawmakers

The procedure is used after in vitro fertilization,
when parents whose families have a history of genetic
disorders want to avoid having a child with a lethal or
severely debilitating birth defect.

While it is permitted in other countries, its legality
had been a gray area in Germany. Parliament took up the issue
after a federal court last year ruled that a doctor who had
performed the procedure had not committed any offense.

Under the law approved today, an ethics commission
will have to decide on a case-by-case basis whether couples
A large minority of lawmakers had favored a total ban
on the practice, with some saying even limited permission for
genetic selection set a bad precedent.

"This is about variety: do we want to allow it in our
society?" asked Katrin Goering-Eckardt of the opposition
Greens, one of those advocating a ban.

But lawmakers who backed allowing the practice said it
would be an option only in a few cases, and argued that
parents who worry about possible genetic defects should be
trusted with the decision to use it.

"I am firmly convinced that we should not choose to
close our eyes to how we can use modern medicine appropriately
to support and help these long-suffering families," said Labor
Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

Opposition lawmaker Soeren Bartol said he wanted to
give couples at risk of passing on genetic disorders the
option of deciding to have a child.

"I would also like these parents to be spared, as far
as possible, the terrible experience of a miscarriage or a
still birth," he added.

Despite the lawmakers` emotional debate, medical
researchers say the procedure, a test done to pick the best
embryos, has largely proved to be a disappointment.

Doctors had assumed the test would improve pregnancy
rates, but studies showed that women who had their embryos
tested were actually less likely to become pregnant, probably
because scientists still can`t accurately predict which
embryos will succeed.

A study in its early stages presented this week at a
European fertility conference in Stockholm suggested that
embryos which look problematic on day three can fix themselves
by day five.


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