Switzerland is hotly debating the authorisation of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and, by extension, MAP. The Federal Council (government) has put forward legislation to Parliament. The Upper Chamber has already debated and adopted the draft law, excluding screening for Down syndrome and designer babies given the risk of eugenic spin-offs (Gènéthique press review on March 10th, 2014).
Voting 138 in favour to 38 against and with 13 abstentions, yesterday the National Council authorised PGD for couples at risk of transmitting a serious disease to their child. “Based on ethical considerations, conservatives and part of the left-wing nevertheless contested any opening”, referring to the “slippery slope” associated with this “system of selection and instrumentalisation”.
Ignoring the favourable position of the National Ethics Committee on Human Medicine, the Council of States (Upper Chamber) voted 108 to 79 against the option to create “baby-savers”. This technique would facilitate the “choice of an embryo possessing a genetic profile that will allow the unborn child to donate tissues or cells to a sick sibling. Some people have defended this technique on the basis that, in Europe, all of the countries that have legalised PGD have authorised the creation of designer babies (HLA typing). The National Council has followed the Council of States in rejecting HLA typing.
Conversely, it has amended the draft bill presented by the Council of States by voting 119 to 65 in favour of legalising aneuploidy screening (chromosomal anomalies), thereby authorising screening for Down syndrome.
Finally the National Council refused (by 117 votes to 70) to limit the number of embryos created in a medically assisted procreation cycle with a view to PGD to 8 and the number for “normal” IVF to 3.
The draft bill has now been handed back to the Council of States and will be put in the hands of the people since this authorisation for PGD requires a change in the constitution.