Letter: Genetics and faith

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I was disappointed to read Jeremy Laurance misrepresenting the aims of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD (" `Designer babies' fear in genetic screenings, 16 November). There are several points I would like to make in order to clarify the rationale behind the availability of this technique.

Firstly, the babies born following PGD were, in general, the offspring of fertile couples who had made a conscious and thoughtful decision after detailed clinical consultations to opt for this mode of testing. They represent couples who have had and possibly lost a child or children with serious life-threatening genetic disorders. They did not have genetic testing of their embryos as an adjunct to infertility treatment.

Whilst many will argue that there is no justification for offering such testing, there are those who believe that individuals and couples have a right to choose not to bring a child into the world with serious problems. However, this is not the issue I raise here.

My concern is that couples opting for PGD do so usually on moral or religious grounds. The option of termination of pregnancy is not acceptable to them and the availability of PGD affords them the opportunity of becoming pregnant with an unaffected embryo.

In essence, PGD is another form of prenatal testing which should help those couples attain their goal of having an unaffected, not a "designer" baby.

The procedure of PGD is gruelling, and to suggest that such couples are undertaking this for superficial benefits is offensive and upsetting.

ALISON LASHWOOD

Genetic Counsellor

Guy's Hospital

London SE1

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