Human Genetics Alert

Phone/Fax: 020 7502 7516


For immediate release

Yet another step down the slippery slope

Human Genetics Alert (HGA: note 1) today condemned the HFEA decision to allow pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) for late onset, treatable cancers. Like nearly all previous HFEA decisions, it represents a step towards liberalisation of PGD.

In HGA's view it is not appropriate to select against lives which are quite likely never to develop the genetic condition, where the condition is already treatable, and treatment is likely to become much more effective in the decades before the condition appears. Even if treatment fails, the person will live for at least 30 years. By allowing selection against conditions which fail on all the key criteria, the HFEA is making a nonsense of any attempt to rationally distinguish between conditions of different severity. It is thereby paving the way for a free for all.

We are extremely concerned by openly eugenic comments such as that by Dr Richard Kennedy, former chair of the British Fertility Society, who, referring to PGD for breast cancer predisposition, said that “PGD may be become a more cost effective option for society and the health economy. (2)" This view was echoed by another fertility expert, Dr Simon Fishel on Radio 4 this morning.

HGA's director, Dr David King said, "The conditions that the HFEA is allowing parents to select against are far to the wrong side of any reasonable line that we might draw. Of course I have sympathy with families who carry these genes, but the consequences of repeatedly crossing ethical lines will be disastrous for many more people.”

Commenting personally, Dr King said, “My own sister died of ovarian cancer at age 34, possibly as a result of these genes. She had a wonderful life and was treasured by everyone who new her. I find it very upsetting that some people think it would be reasonable for her to have been terminated at conception, especially when it is because they want to save money for the NHS.”

For more information, please call Dr David King on 020 7502 7516, or for May 10th only, on 07905 699033.

Notes for editors

1. Human Genetics Alert is an independent watchdog group which supports a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy.

2.  Dr Kennedy was quoted in a BBC news article, which can be found at: