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Preimplantation diagnosis to create ‘saviour siblings’: A critical discussion of the current and future legal frameworks in South Africa

Ann Strode, Sheetal Soni

Abstract


Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is a technology used
in conjunction with in vitro fertilisation to screen embryos for
genetic conditions prior to transfer. It was initially developed
to screen mutations for severe, irreversible, genetic conditions.
Currently, PGD makes it possible to select against more than 100
different genetic conditions. It has been proposed as a method
for creating a tissue-matched child who can in turn serve as a
compatible stem cell donor to save a sick sibling in need of a stem
cell transplant. The advantage of this method is that it provides
genetic information before implantation of an embryo into the
womb, making it possible to ensure that only tissue-matched
embryos are transferred to the uterus. A couple can therefore
avoid the difficult choice of either terminating the pregnancy at
a later point if the fetus is not a match, or extending their family
again in the hope that their next child will be tissue compatible.
Many people have expressed disapproval of the use of PGD for
this purpose, and it is associated with many conflicting interests
including religion, ethics as well as legal regulation. In order
to manage these issues some jurisdictions have created legal
frameworks to regulate the use of this technology. Many of these
are modelled on the UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology
Authority and its guardian legislation.
This paper critiques the current and future South African legal
framework to establish whether it is able to adequately regulate
the use of PGD as well as guard against misuse of the technology.
It concludes that changes are required to the future framework in
order to ensure that it regulates the circumstances in which PGD
may occur and that the Minister of Health should act expediently
in finalising draft regulations which will regulate PGD in the
future.

Authors' affiliations

Ann Strode, niversity of KwaZulu Natal

Sheetal Soni, University of KwaZulu Natal

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Keywords

Pre-implnatation diagnosis, 'saviour siblings'

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2012;102(1):21.

Article History

Date submitted: 2011-04-07
Date published: 2011-12-14

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