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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 23:06 GMT
Hashmi decision sparks ethics row
Dr Simon Fishel outside the Park Hospital's Centre for Assisted Reproduction in Nottinghamshire
Treatment begins at a Nottinghamshire hospital
The landmark decision to give the Hashmi family permission to use IVF treatment to help their three-year-old son has divided scientific opinion and angered "pro-life" campaigners.

Leading fertility expert Lord Robert Winston, director of research and development at London's Hammersmith Hospital, disagrees with the decision because of the risks involved.

He said: "I don't think it's right for couples to have their hopes greatly raised by this procedure when there are other techniques which might prove a lot more effective.

"If stem cell research is jeopardised because of an adverse public reaction to this case it would be most unfortunate.

On the surface this seems a worthy cause, but by allowing it we would further devalue the respect for human life which is the cornerstone of our society

Peter Garret

"I'm quite concerned about this ruling and I don't think this was the right decision, but that is a personal view."

But Professor Vivienne Nathanson, head of ethics at the British Medical Association, welcomed the decision and denied it was a green light for "designer" babies.

She told BBC News: "It's a tiny step down that line but it's the kind of step that I think very many people will support.

"Most people feel alienated by the idea of a designer baby where you choose the eye colour or the hair colour, or something really rather flippant and unimportant.


"But the idea that the child may be able to be a donor to an older sibling is rather different, and particularly if you can use blood from the umbilical cord, which poses no risk of pain or discomfort or anything else to the newborn child."

Professor Nathanson said the fear of treating children as a "commodity" was an important consideration.

"Is this a wanted child or is it a child that's only wanted as a donor to the older child?

"If it's wanted for itself and [will] be loved and cared for, regardless of whether it turns out to be a suitable donor, then most people will be comforted, but it's a difficult and fine balance."
Zain Hashmi
Zain Hashmi has thalassaemia

Anti-abortion charity Life claimed this turned the newborn child into an exploited commodity and designer baby.

Life director of research Peter Garret said: "This case raises serious questions as to how far we should allow science to go.

"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'."

He added: "Children should be accepted and loved unconditionally.

"The procedure being considered here will allow a child to be born only on condition that he/she can supply bone marrow for an older brother."

The BBC's Karen Allen
"Each case will have to be judged on its own merits"
Deputy chair of the HFEA, Jane Denton
"It will only be allowed under very strict controls"
Bruno Quintervalle, Comment on Reproductive Ethics
"These are issues that parliament should be dealing with"

Designer babies
Should they be permitted?
See also:

22 Feb 02 | Health
Go-ahead for 'designer' baby
01 Oct 01 | Health
Q&A: Test-tube lifesaver
15 Oct 01 | Health
UK 'designer baby' first
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