HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Friday, February 13, 2009

Designer Babies

You would think that after the recent rather negative publicity over the birth of octuplets that fertility clinics would be revisiting some of their policies and reconsidering some of their practices.  Perhaps they are but this brief article in the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog states that they continue to practice in ways that appear unsafe and also continue to expand their services in ways that are certainly troubling.  Jacob Goldstein writes,

A clinic called the Fertility Institutes says it will start allowing parents to select for gender and physical traits in their babies, the WSJ reports this morning. The technology for doing so is emerging from a procedure called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD, which was developed to test embryos for life-threatening diseases.  “It’s technically feasible and it can be done,” Mark Hughes, a pioneer of the PGD process and director of a large fertility laboratory in Detroit, said of trait selection. But he added that “no legitimate lab would get into it and, if they did, they’d be ostracized.”

Meanwhile, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine this week highlighted its “concerns” about California octuplets case. “Physicians have known for many years the dangers of multiple pregnancy,” the group said in a statement. . . . The ASRM notes that the percentage of procedures resulting in triplets or more has fallen significantly in recent years, to about 2% for a common type of fertility treatment. But as this morning’s New York Times points out, nearly a third of in vitro births involve twins or more.

Nadya Suleman, the mother in the octuplets case, has said her doctor transferred six embryos, two of which divided. ASRM has voluntary guidelines that recommend against this sort of practice, but “it seems that the guidelines may not have been followed in Ms. Suleman’s case,” the ASRM statement noted.

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