The movement toward the provision of genetic based ‘therapies’ with a clear eugenic intent has moved one step closer to becoming a reality in this State. As the Irish Independent reports, the proposal is being introduced under the guise of permitting the sex selection of an embryo in fertility clinics setting, prior to implantation, “where there is a significant risk of a child being born with a serious genetic disease.”
The proposals are outlined in the General Scheme of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill 2017. The section of the Bill that interprets the various terms is explicitly clear when it comes to what is meant by ‘genetic disease.’
“Genetic disease” means a hereditary disease caused by a monogenic (single gene) or chromosomal mutation that entails a high risk to the person with the disease of having a short life expectancy, serious physical or mental disability or illness and poor treatability.”
In terms of the sex selection aspect of the proposal it is equally, if disturbingly clear:
“Sex selection shall be permitted in cases where there is a significant risk of a child being born with a serious genetic disease that affects only one sex or affects one sex significantly more than the other and that is included on the list to be established and maintained by the Regulatory Authority.”
There are of course enormous ethical and moral problems posed by this proposition, not the least of which is that it is glaringly eugenic in effect, if not explicitly so in intent.
There is no clarification given as to what might eventually fall under the worryingly broad definition of ‘genetic disease’ only that “It is envisaged that such conditions will be included in the list to be established and maintained by the Regulatory Authority.”
There is also no clarification given as to whether any conditions outlined above, short life expectancy, serious physical disability etc are to be taken individually or whether they would all have to be present in any possible child that could be born.
Another area of grave concern is that nowhere either in the General Scheme of the AHR Bill or in the Explanatory Memorandums that form part of it, are the dangers of the embryo screening method, Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) recognised.
Leaving aside for now the fact that the AHR/IVF enterprise is premised on the creation of vast numbers of embryos purely for the purposes of screening and eventual discarding of those deemed ‘surplus’ to requirements; there are known and quantifiable risks associated with PGD itself.
One of the other major problems that is associated with the AHR industry and that is also linked with realising this proposal is the dangers presented to women from Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS).
Even the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have acknowledged that there is no cure for OHSS and that it may lead the women to be at increased risk of developing pre-eclampsia or giving birth to the baby prematurely.
We need to be absolutely clear about this proposal. On the face of it is merely a means to avoid the birth of a child with a significant risk of genetic disease. The problem is the means that must be employed to obtain that end.
It necessitates the creation of human life that will either be discarded or consigned to the ignominious fate of becoming ‘research material’.
It also legitimises and socially reinforces the idea that there are categories of children who can and must be denied the right to life based simply on the fact that they have been diagnosed with a potentially life limiting disease.
Is that where we want to go as a society?