Limited approval but controversial

Limited approval but controversial

The legal situation on preimplantation genetic diagnosis in Europe varies. It has had limited approval in Germany since 2011. The Catholic Church rejects the testing method.

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is a prenatal examination method. In test-tube fertilization, or in vitro fertilization, fertilized eggs are examined outside the womb for genetic defects, and damaged embryos may be destroyed.

The first child conceived in a test tube and subjected to such a diagnosis was born in the USA in 1990. Legal situation varies widely in EU member states. In the Netherlands, for example, it has been possible since 2008 to screen out embryos at high risk for hereditary cancer before implantation. However, selection by sex is prohibited. Belgium and France also allow PGD under certain conditions to prevent serious genetic diseases.

PGD permitted in Germany under certain conditions

In Germany, PGD was considered illegal until the summer of 2010 according to the current legal interpretation. However, in early July 2010, the Federal Court of Justice ruled that genetic testing of embryos under certain conditions does not contradict the Embryo Protection Act and is therefore not prohibited.

In 2011, the Bundestag passed a law allowing for a limited allowance of PGD. According to this, the method is permissible in cases "in which one or both parents carry a predisposition to a serious hereditary disease or a stillbirth or miscarriage is to be expected.".

Warning against selection

Among others, the Catholic Church and parts of the Protestant Church reject PGD. They warn that PGD will lead to a new form of selection between "life worth living" and "life unworth living". At the same time, they fear that the method will lead to a decline in society's willingness to accept disabled children. They also expect that in the future, with the help of the new technology, not only diseases could be detected, but embryos could also be deliberately manipulated. They consider a limitation of PGD to a few serious cases unrealistic, referring to developments in the USA and Great Britain.

Advocates of genetic testing criticize that German law widely allows abortions in the case of a child's disability, but prohibits PGD performed at a much earlier stage.

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