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DESIGNER TOTS GET GO-AHEAD; Hospital given licence to screen embryos.

Byline: JAMES TAIT

A SCOTS hospital has been given the go-ahead to help couples choose the sex of their babies.

Doctors at Glasgow's Royal Infirmary have been granted a licence to screen embryos in the early stages of fertility treatment and discard those most at risk.

The move is designed to help couples who want a baby but are worried about the risk of passing on a genetic illness.

Some conditions passed on by parents show no symptoms in girls but can cause severe illness in boys. In these cases only female embryos would be selected.

Conditions involved include one form of muscular dystrophy, haemophilia, Hunter's Syndrome and hydrocephalus.

The procedure, known as pre- implantation genetic diagnosis, uses test tube baby techniques on embryos before implanting them in the womb.

The hospital is also licensed to select male embryos for couples who fear a child might be born with Turner's Syndrome, which can lead to severe deformity and liver and heart problems.

Doctors will have to apply for a different licence if they want to carry out other "designer baby" work, as in the case of the decision to allow a family from England to select a baby whose blood could help doctors treat their other son.

The Hashmis' three-year-old son Zain needs a marrow transplant from a donor who is a perfect genetic match.

Glasgow health chiefs have stressed the Royal will not be able to offer the selection to parents simply because they would prefer to have a baby boy or girl.

But Ken Brown, regional boss of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, said: "Many of our members would be absolutely opposed to this treatment."

And the Catholic Church in Scotland attacked the move.

A spokesman said: "What does this say about people who have disabilities? This selection process creates life only to destroy it."

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TESTS: Glasgow Royal Infirmary
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 12, 2002
Words:312
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