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Ethics & medicine

Group hopes to stop genetic testing on embryos

Opponents of legislation that would allow the testing of embryos conceived in vitro (IVF) for genetic defects and serious illnesses have handed in signatures to the Federal Chancellery to try to force a nationwide vote.

On June 14 of this year, nearly 62% of Swiss voters voted in favour of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). However, that vote concerned a constitutional amendment, meaning that instead of legalising PDG, it merely created a framework for doctors to practice it.

On Thursday, PGD critics handed in 58,700 signatures against future legislation drafted by parliament, which contains language to implement the technique.

Before an embryo conceived via in-vitro fertilisation is implanted into a uterus, PGD can be used – and indeed has been used in other countries already for two decades – to ascertain whether the future foetus will suffer from genetic abnormalities.

The moderate Evangelical People’s Party of Switzerland (EVP) launched the referendum on September 1. Two other committees – one from the political right and one group of 18 civil society organisations also contributed signatures.

The civil society committee, which includes disability advocacy and Christian women’s groups, is concerned that PGD could permit unlimited genetic selection and control – possibly even extending to gender or other traits.

"For us, it is important to invest in the plurality of society", Maria Theresa Weber-Gobet of Procap, the largest Swiss association of persons with disabilities, told the Swiss News Agency ATS. "There must be a place for the disabled.”

The next step is for the Federal Chancellery to officially count all the signatures. If the minimum of 50,000 is confirmed, Swiss citizens may be asked to vote on the issue next year.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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