Preimplantation genetic diagnosis
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is defined as the genetic screening of cells from an embryo created through in vitro fertilization and prior to being transferred into the womb. For this purpose, single cells are taken from the embryo at a very early stage and screened for the presence of certain chromosome defects or genetic disorders. Depending on the results, the embryo is then implanted or not.
The legal status of PGD ranges in Europe from explicit prohibition to relatively far-reaching permissibility. The German Embryo Protection Act (Embryonenschutzgesetz, ESchG) considers the practice of PGD a punishable offense as a matter of principle. However, under certain circumstances, it is permitted in authorized centers for preimplantation genetic diagnosis. Prerequisites include a high risk of a serious genetic disease for the person conceived, the provision of comprehensive information, and counseling on the medical, psychological, and social consequences involved.
Discussions mainly concern the moral and legal status of embryos, the role and rights of women, and the effects of PGD on society. As yet, there are still controversies in society on whether PGD should be made available and, if so, under what circumstances. Concrete scenarios are also subject to debate. These include the question as to whether PGD should be permitted for the purpose of evaluating the suitability of a certain embryo as a potential donor for a sick older sibling (so-called “savior siblings"). In Germany, experiences with PGD are being analyzed in order to evaluate the consequences.
Marion Albers, 22.07.2014 / Marion.Albers@uni-hamburg.de