Vatican Forbids Screening Emryos

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Scientists told a Vatican conference Tuesday that screening embryos for disease before implanting them in in-vitro fertilization posed grave ethical problems that could ultimately result in parents choosing the type of children they want.

The warning, however, was rejected as unfounded by outside scientists.

The Vatican conference, which ended Tuesday, focused on the ethics surrounding the handling of embryos before they are implanted in in-vitro fertilization procedures when they are just a few days old and a few cells in size.

On Monday, Pope Benedict XVI told the conference that even such young embryos deserve the same right to life as fetuses, children and adults.

Scientists and doctors invited by the Vatican to speak said there were serious moral and ethical issues surrounding pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, known by its acronym PGD. In the procedure, a cell from an embryo is tested for genetic conditions and diseases, such as Downs Syndrome, sickle-cell anemia and cystic fibrosis.

If the embryo has the condition, it is typically discarded so that only healthy embryos are selected for transfer into the woman's uterus.

However, panelists warned that embryos could be tested for other traits deemed desirable for parents, such as a specific gender to "balance" out families.

There have also been cases where parents seek to have a child with specific non-diseased characteristics to help a diseased older sibling through tissue or organ donation, they said.

"How will this 'savior' child live his situation?" asked Prof. Marie-Odile Rethore, a member of France's Jerome Lejeune Institute, which conducts research into Down's Syndrome. "How will he live the death of the older child he was not able to save?"

In a paper delivered at the conference, she said France's National Committee on Ethics issued its opinion on the topic in 2002, saying: "If medically assisted procreation is no longer aimed at favoring the birth of children for themselves but to be used to repair another child, we are entering into a humanity that despises itself."

Other panelists warned that the right to privacy of the unborn child may be violated since its future health may already be mapped out by the PGD tests. That could lead to discrimination later in life, if it is known that the child may be predisposed to get diseases such as Alzheimer's, they said.

Such concerns were as old as the earliest prenatal tests, like amniocentesis, said Dr. Joe Leigh Simpson, chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

When those tests were first performed, there was concern among some that "next week we'll be aborting babies because their eye color isn't blue," he said.

"The public draws a bright line in the sand as to those types of enhancements that would or would not be socially acceptable," said Simpson, who was not at the conference. "These are hypothetical arguments."

He stressed that the ethical implications of new technology are constantly being reviewed and considered by the scientific community. And he said that most couples who choose to do PGD do so specifically to avoid aborting a fetus later on in the pregnancy.

"So the Vatican's message has been heard, but not to the extent that the Vatican would like it to be," he said.

NWCN.com | News for NW Cable News | AP Headlines


DNA Tests ordered for urine prank

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- A Baton Rouge hospital, hoping to get to the bottom of an office prank, is ordering 25 employees to undergo DNA testing or be terminated.

Leaders at Woman's Hospital say a man who works in Building Operations returned from several weeks off to find that someone had placed urine in his toolbox.

After hearing of the incident, hospital administrators sent a memo to 25 employees who also work there telling them that DNA testing would be done unless someone came forward admitting guilt. Since no one came forward, the hospital said the DNA testing will begin within the next few weeks.

"We checked with our legal counsel first and this is the next step in using technology to help solve a workplace incident," hospital supervisor Stan Shelton said Monday.

The DNA testing, to be conducted by ReliaGene Technologies of New Orleans, will cost the hospital $25,000, he said.

Attorney Jill Craft worked with litigation involving swabs taken during the investigation into the South Louisiana serial killer cases. Craft fought for the rights of those swabbed during the probe that eventually resulted in the arrest of Derrick Todd Lee.

Craft said she believed the employees' rights are being violated. "It's the intrusion by finding out what your DNA looks like, your unique pattern, which in my opinion, violates someone's right to privacy," she said.

thedailyjournal.com - News From The Associated Press


DNA screened in model murder hunt

About 4,000 men working and living in South Croydon are being asked to voluntarily give their DNA as part of the hunt for a teenage model's killer.

Det Ch Insp Stuart Cundy, who is leading the murder investigation, said the DNA profiles would not be put onto the national database and would only be used to eliminate men from the inquiry.

He said: "What I'm appealing for is men from the South Croydon area, men who live there, work there or visit there, who were born between 1965 and 1985, that's about 20 to 40-years-old, and are either white or light skinned, because that's the description of the man I believe attacked Sally Anne Bowman.

"It is an entirely voluntary process. None of those DNA samples or finger prints will be used to check out an other unsolved crimes.

"Obviously if someone does refuse then each case will be reviewed on its own merits."

Men who receive the letters are asked to drop in. They must not have eaten, drunk or smoked in the 20 minutes before their visit and will need to take two forms of identification.

BBC NEWS | England | London | DNA screened in model murder hunt

The risk of depression

Some people are more than twice as likely to become depressed as others, given similar circumstances, according to landmark research from Brain Sciences University of New South Wales (UNSW).

There are three different genetic types in the population.

* 21 percent of people have the genotype that predisposes them to depression
* 26 percent of people have the genotype with resilience to depression
* 53 percent of people have a mix of the two genotypes

The research also showed there was a 'tipping point' in regards to environmental factors.

"There is an 80 percent chance that those with the genetic predisposition will become depressed, if there are three or more negative life events in a year," said the geneticist on the paper, Professor Peter Schofield, who is Director of the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute (POWMRI).

"It's not just one negative life event, such as a health crisis," said Professor Philip Mitchell, Head of the UNSW School of Psychiatry and Convenor of Brain Sciences UNSW. "The critical issue here is when you're exposed to a series of life events during a period of a year. There is a threshold."

"Our research is significant because there are social, psychological and genetic aspects to it," said Professor Schofield. "While there is plenty of evidence surrounding the significance of family history of depression, until now there has been very little idea about the specific genes involved."

UNSW: The University of New South Wales - Sydney Australia - News - Nature, nuture and the risk of depression

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