Germany’s parliament agreed in a conscience vote on Thursday to allow the limited use of genetic testing of human embryos.
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) — in which a cell or two are extracted from a developing embryo to test for genetic disorders — has divided governments around the world, with many people opposing it on religious and ethical grounds, or arguing that it would let parents choose a “designer baby.”
The new law will allow screening embryos of parents who have a predisposition to severe genetic disorders, where a pregnancy would be likely to result in either stillbirth or miscarriage.
Existing German law did not fully regulate PGD and the German high court last year ruled that parliament should take up the issue with respect to serious genetic defects…
Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen, from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party, told ARD television before the vote that concern over the issue of “designer babies” was unfounded.
“So-called ‘designer babies’, which would be musically gifted or athletic or have blue eyes, are a fantasy,” said von der Leyen, a physician and mother of seven. “It’s about severe illness of individual cases…”
Kerstin Janich, a woman from near Munich whose four-year-old son Louis died of a genetic disease, told Reuters Television in a recent interview there was little public understanding of why some parents who struggle to have children go through screening.
“It’s not about allowing a ‘designer baby’ with blond hair and blue eyes or a sick child not deserving to live,” she said. “It’s about the suffering of an entire family, for siblings and relatives and friends.”
Under the new law, parents will have to undergo counseling and an ethics panel must approve the procedure to select a developing embryo that tests negative for certain anomalies before it is implanted in the womb.
Like so many questions of choice the weight of science and freedom to choose come down on the same side. First, because individuals must always have access to the greatest weight of information to make an informed decision. Second, their own life precedes the results of any choice. Those who wish to rule out choice because it may prevent a life from forming and growing are only defending a “what-if”, giving legal precedence to an idealized possibility over an individual’s right to direct their own life.
Once again, the political nannies camp on the Right Bank of the river of life no matter how loud they may declaim their commitment to liberty. The only surprise – for an American looking over the pond – is witnessing a broad coalition from Liberal to Libertarian willing to take leadership.