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Flawed Italian law endangers women

Dr. Kirsty Horsey

Progress Educational Trust

09 July 2004

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[BioNews, London] Restrictive Italian fertility laws, passed in February this year, have been shown to be 'mediaeval' and are again under debate, reports the British Medical Journal (BMJ). The law on IVF procedures requires that no more than three eggs can be fertilised at once, and that all eggs fertilised must be transferred to the uterus simultaneously, whatever the condition of the resulting embryos.

Now, an Italian woman has undergone a selective termination of a triplet pregnancy in order to protect her health after all three of her IVF embryos successfully implanted. The 26-year old woman, who is very short, thus making carrying a triplet pregnancy even more dangerous for her, had to apply to a court for permission for the termination procedure. The court ruled that if her 11-week triple pregnancy continued, the mother's life would be put at risk. Had she not been successful in her application, the woman planned to travel to London and pay 1000 Euros to have the operation in a private clinic.

The new law bans preimplnatation genetic diagnosis (PGD), the genetic testing of IVF embryos to identify those affected by a serious inherited disorder. Last month, an infertile couple from Lecce in South-east Italy were told by a court that they had to transfer all their IVF embryos, even though they knew that they both carry the gene for thalassaemia, a recessive genetic condition, and that some of their embryos were possibly affected. The woman later miscarried due to the stress, although soon after, she found out that the embryos that had implanted were, in fact, healthy. The BMJ also reports that a Sardinian woman had to undergo an abortion procedure last month when she found out that one of the IVF twins she was carrying had thalassaemia.

In June, Girolamo Sirchia, the Italian Health Minister, said that guidelines on how to apply the new law were being drawn up, to prevent further problematic cases. Ironically, the new law was drafted as a response to concerns that Italy had come to be seen as the 'Wild West of assisted reproduction' because, in the past, people were able to travel to the country for many controversial treatments not available in their own countries. In addition, Sirchia added that the initial impact of the new law seemingly confirms the worst case scenarios that its opponents anticipated. Critics of the legislation, including many liberal and female members of the Italian parliament, said during its passage that it was too restrictive, and that it would place women's health at risk.



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Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 09 July 2004   Date Updated: 13 September 2004
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