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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

Print version ISSN 0256-9574

Abstract

STRODE, Ann  and  SONI, Sheetal. Pre-implantation diagnosis to create 'saviour siblings': a critical discussion of the current and future legal frameworks in South Africa. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2012, vol.102, n.1, pp. 21-24. ISSN 0256-9574.

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.

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