Radio: Inside the Ethics Committee – IVF, Disability and PGD

BBC Radio 4, 9am (repeated 9pm) Thursday 30 July, 2009. Available to listen indefinitely after broadcast via the iPlayer.

“Series in which Joan Bakewell is joined by a panel of experts to tackle the ethics involved in a real hospital case.

They examine the case of Ayesha and her bid to receive fertility treatment. Ayesha has a genetic condition which causes muscle weakness and curvature of the spine. She is in a wheelchair and heavily reliant on her husband and others for day-to-day tasks such as getting out of bed, having a shower and going to the toilet.

By law, the welfare of any child born through fertilty treatment has to be assessed, and Ayesha’s case is no exception. But how does her disability and future health affect the welfare of a child? Is it ethical to put the needs of someone who doesn’t exist yet above those of someone who does? Should a fertility treatment request be treated any differently if one of the parents has a disability rather than a life-threatening illness like cancer? Whose job is it to decide what makes someone adequate parents?

There is a 50 per cent chance that her condition will be passed on to any future child. It is possible to screen out the condition in affected embryos. But Ayesha says she would accept any child regardless of its condition and wouldn’t want any screening. The law says you cannot screen in a disability, but says nothing about screening one out. Is it ethical to consider screening for embryos in effect with the same conditon as Ayesha’s if she was offered fertility treatment?”

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