Eugenic Screening Allowed: European Court Decides

Italian Government Plans to Continue Legal Proceedings

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ROME, SEPT. 5, 2012 ( On August 28 the European Court of Human Rights declared that access to pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) must be allowed.

The court decision dealt with Law 40/2004 on assisted fertilization in Italy. The case of Rosetta Costa and Walter Pavan v. Italy regarded a married couple who were both carriers of cystic fibrosis who wished to use PGD to screen their children as embryos.

The couple already aborted a child suffering from cystic fibrosis and they brought their case to the court arguing that the current Italian law that prohibits pre-implantation genetic diagnosis infringes their private and family life.

Law 40, approved in 2004, prohibited PGD and also the freezing of embryos and research using embryos. A 2009 Supreme Court decision allowed the use of PGD, but only in the case of infertile couples, which is not the situation of the couple who brought the case.

The judgment, however, is not final and the Italian Government has said it will request the referral of the case before the Grand Chamber for reconsideration

Interviewed by ZENIT, Carlo Casini, the president of the Italian Pro-Life Movement, described the judgment as “superficial” and expressed the hope that it would be overturned on appeal.

He also pointed out that the decision does not oblige Italy to change its law and is not a definitive judgment. Casini also noted that last November the Grand Chamber overturned a decision regarding heterologous fertilization.

Casino pointed out that to take a case before the European Court of Human Rights it is first necessary to have exhausted the judicial procedures in the country of origin. The couple in this case, however did not do this but went directly to the European court and for that reason alone their case should not have been allowed.

One of the great problems with PGD, Casini explained, is that it requires there be from nine to 12 healthy embryos. Therefore, to ensure the birth of a single embryo many other viable embryos are destroyed. “Hence, it is a programmed death of many children to have a healthy one.”

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