New IVF amendments do not ensure healthy babies

Government’s proposal to introduce embryo selection in the IVF procedure is “nothing short of eugenics”, according to a number of organisations that have come together to opose the amendments.

“Such methods do not deliver a healthy baby but provide a tool to enable the selection of which baby will live and which baby will be frozen in perpetuity,” the statement said. 

The statement was sent on behalf of Life Network Foundation Malta, Malta Unborn Child Platform, Id‑Dar tal‑Providenza, Fondazzjoni Arka, Catholic Voices Malta, Moviment ta Kana, Caritas Malta, Peace and Good Foundation, Paulo Freire Foundation, St Jeanne Antide Foundation, Dar Merħba Bik Foundation, Dar Hosea, Society of St Vincent de Paule and The Church Homes for the Elderly.

The government has announced amendments to the IVF law will allow genetic testing prior to implantation to enable doctors to look out for certain conditions such as Huntingtons’ Disease.

“Every embryo created through an IVF cycle is a distinct human being. Under the proposed procedure every embryo will be tested for possible monogenic disorders. After the diagnosis, only an embryo that does not test positive to the disorder is transferred into his or her mother’s womb. The embryos that carry the unwanted mutation are frozen indefinitely.

“Government seeks to mask this reality by implying that discarded embryos still have the chance to be adopted. In the last two years the stockpile of frozen embryos has risen from 180 to over 300 this year, no mention of any having been adopted,” the organisations said.

They argue there are “serious consequences” when the fundamental human principle that no person should determine who is to live and who is to die is breached.

“The new IVF amendments are fundamentally discriminatory as they imply that the lives of people presently living with such genetic conditions are valueless. Human embryos with the same genetic conditions do not deserve to be intentionally frozen.

“It accentuates a mentality that discriminates against people living with disabilities. Today there are people living with genetic conditions,” they said.

Pointing to the Special Olympics held in Malta in recent weeks, the organisations said the government cannon celebrate such events in one month only to propose laws that prevent children with genetic conditions from being born in the next month.

“We urge the government to consider the ethical and moral implications that this eugenic legislation will be introducing and to open this process to appropriate consultation.”

Statement is an insult to couples with genetic disorders

Reacting, Doctors for Choice said the statement against Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis is an insult to couples with genetic disorders.

“Their statement is an insult to those who couples who have genetic disorders andshows a lack of basic understanding of biology.

“As an organisation that regularly hears from people who need reproductive services, we have heard directly from couples with mono-genetic disorders who do not want to risk passing on the disorder, or a major form of the disorder, to their children,” the NGO said. 

Couples’ only option so far has been to spend several thousand Euro to have PGD-IVF abroad, an expense they incur just because they were unlucky enough tobe born carrying a genetic disorder, the doctors said.

“The status quo is discriminatory against these couples, and the amendments to IVF law will seek to address this, at least partially.

“It is heartless to continue telling these disadvantaged couples ‘sorry, Malta cannot help you, go get what you need abroad at your own expense.’ We can do better than this.”

The doctors said the claim that “such methods do not deliver a healthy baby but provide a tool to enable the selection of which baby will live and which baby will be frozen in perpetuity,” shows a l”ack of a basic understanding of biology”

“Worse still a lack of empathy towards parents seeking to raise children free of exceptional health conditions which have caused suffering in their own families. Embryos are not babies. Most embryos fail to produce a viable pregnancy, let alone a baby.

“Equating embryos to babies, or human persons, is not scientifically sound and this faulty ideologyis why people in Malta continue to be denied reproductive health services that are available in other countries. Yes, PGD-IVF does help deliver healthy babies and avert suffering. It is time we start valuingactual people and science rather than imposefaulty ideology.”

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us