Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Law to ban designer babies

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Government has said ‘no’ to designer babies. A new law, now being drafted, will forbid parents to choose the gender of their yet-to-be born child.
“To choose a baby based on its gender, the colour of its eyes or hair will not be allowed,” Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek told reporters at Parliament lobby yesterday.
“We are against people who want to determine the sex of their babies. This is unacceptable as it will cause serious socio-economic implications on society.”
Designer babies are those with specific physical, social or gender characteristics.
Under the new law, the Health Ministry has the power to stop fertility clinics which intend to carry out the so-called assisted reproductive technology (ART) involving pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) procedure for genetic testing and selection of embryos through in-vitro fertilisation.
There are about 30 of such clinics in the country.
The new law, however, allows gender selection only if the parents or their family members are afflicted with serious genetic conditions, such as haemophilia or Down Syndrome, which are usually associated with males.
Dr Chua clarified, however, that artificial insemination to help childless couples have a baby is not wrong.
He was commenting on a news report on the country’s first designer baby, who was born in December 2004 at a private medical centre.
The minister said the proposed legislation was based on guidelines agreed to by the Malaysian Medical Council on June 13
He said the guidelines stated that medical practitioners would not be permitted to select the sex of babies based on social reasons.
The ART guidelines also mentioned that it would be unethical to analyse and select: ·THE inherited characteristics of embryos (intelligence, height, hair and eye colour), and
·ANY social or psychological characteristics or conditions that are not associated with disability or a serious medical problem.
The guidelines added that PGD should only be used to avoid severe and life-threatening genetic diseases, which might affect the baby.
Dr Chua said when the law is implemented, offenders would be hauled up by the council.
He also said that the acceptable ratio of male to female population is 105:100.
“If people are allowed to choose males over females, this would create a social imbalance, like what is happening in China and parts of India,” he added.

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