THE first officially sanctioned "designer baby" in British history was given the go-ahead last night, a
move which pushes yet further at the boundaries of medical ethics.
If the birth is successful it will be the first child born with the blessing of the human fertilisation
and embryology authority, which yesterday agreed to the procedure.
Shahana and Raj Hashmis son Zain suffers from thalassaemia, an inherited blood disorder . Without a bone
marrow transplant, bis outlook is bleak, and no compatible match has been found within the family or
in the national donor pool.
The Hashmis, of Leeds, want to undergo conventional IVF treatment to have a baby, but with two differences .
The embryos produced will be screened twice before any are implanted in Shahana's womb: once to make sure
that any baby born will not suffer from thalassaemia, and once to be sure that the baby's genes make it a
compatible donor for Zain.
"Zain is not well. He is very poorly," said Simon Fishel of the Care fertility clinic in Nottingham, which
will carry out the British end of thejoint UK-US procedure.
"He's going to be possibly up and down and may continue like that but his quality of life is grim.
At best, he may live to his late twenties with this cocktail of drugs and transfusions. So yes,- it's acute.
I do believe it's a question of saving Zain and not just saving his quality of life."
Last week, a baby girl genetically pre-selected to be a compatible donor for her brother, a recovering
leukaemia patient, was born in a British hospital.
The parents of that child - who have asked not to be named underwent almost the entire IVF and screening
procedure in the US, and thus did not need the permission of the HFEA.
THE Hashmis will undergo IVF treatment at the Care clinic. When the embryos produced have grown to the
eight-cell stage, a single cell will be removed from each and the cells flown to the US where they will
be compared with genetic markers sampied from the family some months ago. If one or two of the embryos
are both non-thalassaemic and a good tissue match, they will be implanted in Shahanas womb.
Assuming all goes well with the pregnancy, when the baby is born, blood will be taken from its
umbilical cord and frozen. Cells from this cord blood will provide the replacement for Zain's bone marrow.
Screening embryos for positive genetic characteristics has drawn criticism from the anti-abortion lobby
and others who believe that it is wrong to bring a child into the worid for anyone's benefit but its own.
Others warn that permitting embryo selection for donor compatability is the first step on a slippery slope
leading to selection for "beauty" or "intelligence". Peter Garrett, of the anti-abortion group Life, said:
"Should we allow a child to be manufactured in order to serve the medical needs of an older brother?
Whilst the term 'designer baby' is often overused, it is all too appropriate in this case."
However both the Hashmis - who have sold their story to a restricted group of media outlets-and the
couple who have already had a genetically-screened baby argue that they are not "designing.'
"All we're asking for is a helping hand by the scientists," Mrs Hashmi told ITV last year. "This baby
is going to be given to us by nature, but all the scientists are doing is making sure we get the one we
want. They're not going to design anything." ...
Source: The Guardian of Feb. 23, 2002
thalassaemia - a rare genetic blood disease which can be fatal. The cure for this disease involves transplanting blood stem cells.
umbilical cord - Nabelschnur
IVF - in vitro fertilization: a technique where mature eggs are removed from the ovaries (Eierstock), mixed with sperm, then the resulting embryos planted directly into the uterus.
HFEA - Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority. It regulates IVF treatment.
1. What are the reasons for the Hashmis to have a designer baby?
2. Descibe the procedure which has to be taken to make sure that the Hashmis get the baby they want.
3. Do you agree with what the Hashmis are doing from a moral and ethical view? Substantiate your arguments in favour