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Saturday, 29 June, 2002, 23:51 GMT 00:51 UK
Play chronicles 'designer baby' family
The Hashmi family
Zain, second right, and his family
An American playwright is to chronicle the lives of the Leeds 'designer baby' family, who want another baby to save their sick son.

Timothy Cooper said he hoped to have his play finished later this year and is already in talks with theatres.

Three-year-old Zain Hashmi, from Leeds, has the rare and potentially fatal blood disorder thalassaemia.

He urgently needs a bone marrow transplant but so far no suitable genetic match has been found.


I thought that family was where the most serious debate in the world was this year

Timothy Cooper

Life-saving

But, in the first decision of its kind in Britain, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has given Zain's parents, Raj and Shahana Hashmi, permission to specially select an embryo in an attempt to save their son's life.

Using IVF techniques a cell will be removed from the specially selected embryo and checked that it is disease-free and a good tissue match.

If it is suitable, the embryo will be implanted into the mother's womb.

Timothy Cooper
Author Timothy Cooper hopes to use dialogue to tell the Hashmi's story

When the baby is eventually born, doctors take stem-cells, which can regenerate bone marrow, from the umbilical cord and inject those cells into Zain.

Using this technique Zain will have an 80% chance of a match being found, compared to a 20% chance from a brother or sister conceived naturally.

Ethics

The whole concept of 'designer babies' has raised a global ethical debate and Mr Cooper said it is this that he hopes to use as the basis of his play, which has been funded by Yale University.

"It seemed nobody had explored this or covered it in any artistic way before. I thought the subject was open to exploration.

"I thought that family was where the most serious debate in the world was this year.

"I have always been interested in theatre and I proposed this project because I came across the details when I was researching my philosophy thesis."

Zain Hashmi
Zain has thalassaemia

Mr Cooper, 22, said he had not yet decided what form the play would take, but hoped to base it on a series of interviews carried out with the family and those connected with the story.

"I was inspired by a play by Anna Deavere Smith called "Fires in the mirror".

"This was a play based on the racial riots in Crown Heights, in New York in 1991.

"She used interviews to recreate the riots in a dramatic way, but without taking a stance."


Click here to go to Leeds
See also:

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