Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Killing embryos who may be disabled "a miraculous and wonderful healthcare option"

Alison Davis, the leader of No Less Human, a division of SPUC, has pointed out to me how a story in the Daily Mail glosses over mention of the lethal discrimination against the disabled inherent in the practice of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).

Naturally, our hearts go out to parents (pictured) who fear that their children may be affected by a hereditary disabling condition. Newspapers, however, have a responsibility to give their readers the facts, especially on such serious matters for parents and families

Instead, sadly, as is so often the case with media, the misinformation in the Daily Mail story is appalling. Headlined "Baby born free of hereditary gene peril thanks to controversial screening" the Daily Mail fails entirely to point out that embryos affected by the disabling condition are simply destroyed/discarded. Indeed, you might conclude from the Daily Mail that PGD was completely harmless to children! The mother in the story is quoted as saying: "If the technology is there and there is something that can be done that doesn't harm the child or myself, then we should go down that road".

Alison Davis writes in a letter to the Mail: "While naturally happy at the birth of any baby, I was very saddened to read in the Daily Mail that a couple decided to have pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in order to ensure that their baby did not have neurofibromatosis. While, on the face of it, it would seem laudable to prevent a baby having a disabling condition, the article failed to point out the realities of the PGD procedure.

"It is not simply a case of 'preventing' the disabling condition. In PGD, early human embryos are examined under the microscope. Those who are affected by the disabling condition in question are immediately discarded (i.e. thrown away). One of those not affected is then chosen to be implanted in the mother's womb. The eugenic philosophy behind the procedure is very clear. Those who have a disability will always be thrown away.

"This has particular resonance for me, as I have several severe disabling conditions and use a wheelchair full time. I am painfully aware that such procedures disciminate fatally against those like me who would otherwise grow up with a disability. By discarding embryos with disabling conditions we are sending out a very strong negative message to all disabled people - that we are tolerated only because the technology wasn't available to eliminate us at the embryonic stage. It also sends out a very subtle message to those like baby Ethan, who were born after the PGD procedure - that they are loved and wanted only because they are not disabled."

While we know that Alison's letter has appeared in today's printed version of the Daily Mail, the text isn't presently on their website.