Pro-Life Groups Outraged By Designer Baby Ruling

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

London ( - A couple seeking to use genetic testing to create a child that would help their diseased son had their application approved Friday by Britain's fertility authority.

Raj and Shahana Hashmi had applied to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for permission to create a "designer baby" whose umbilical cord stem cells could cure their son Zain's rare blood disorder.

Zain has thalassaemia, a genetic disease, and the couple's doctors say he is likely to die without a bone marrow transplant.

Using a technique called preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), the couple's doctors will now create and test several test-tube embryos to ensure that the boy's future sibling is free of the blood disease and has the right type of tissue to cure the ailing child.

Pro-life groups had urged the authority to deny the application.

"This case raises serious questions as to how far we should allow science to go," said Peter Garrett, director of research for Life. "Should we allow a child to be manufactured in order to serve the medical needs of an older brother? Life's answer is an emphatic 'no.'

"Zain Hashmi's condition is a very serious genetic blood disorder, and we understand his parents' request to use technology in this way, but there are other lives to consider," Garrett said.

"Zain's sibling will have to live with the knowledge that he or she was created to supply bone marrow, and extra embryos will be created and discarded in the course of the procedure," he added.

"Children are not commodities," Garrett said. "They are precious gifts who should not be exploited."

In December, the HFEA ruled that the PGD procedure could be used, but said that permission would be granted on a case-by-case basis only.

The Hashmis are being treated by the Centre for Assisted Reproduction in Nottinghamshire County in central England. A clinic spokesman said doctors had no ethical concerns about the procedure and that the Hashmis' new child would be loved by its parents.

The Hashmis said before the HFEA ruling that they would travel to the United States to undergo the PGD procedure if their application were to be turned down.

Last weekend, Britain's first "designer baby," the second in the world, was born in London. The child's parents had traveled to the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago for treatment.

The couple's U.K. doctor, Mohammed Taranissi, intends to build a London clinic to routinely perform PGD. Taranissi has said that even if the HFEA turns down his application, he will go ahead with plans to open the clinic.

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