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Genetic tests, parents 'refused'

23rd April 2009

Experts have warned that children are being born with severe genetic abnormalities because their parents are being refused funding to screen their embryos.

The newly-opened Assisted Conception Unit at Guy's Hospital in London wants to see fairer provision of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in which embryos can be screened for particular abnormalities.

The unit, a fully integrated IVF and PGD centre, offers a service to couples from all over the country who want to ensure that their baby does not carry a potentially life-threatening inherited condition.

However, a postcode lottery and delays in funding decisions mean parents cannot always get their local primary care trust to fund the £7,000 treatment.

Alison Lashwood, a consultant nurse in genetics and PGD at Guy's, is concerned that some parents go ahead and conceive naturally and then go onto have further affected children.

PGD requires parents to undergo standard in vitro fertilisation (IVF) but at a very early stage, when there are only eight cells in the developing embryo, doctors take one of the cells out to examine the genes.

They then choose the embryos that do not seem to have the genetic fault and implant them in the womb.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has drawn up a list of the conditions it is permissible to screen for but funding decisions are made locally.

Claire Holdcroft from the Jennifer Trust, which works with families affected by spinal muscular atrophy, agreed that some parents did have difficulty obtaining funding for PGD from their local trust.

 

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