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Parents appeal for designer baby to save son's life; Fight for Zain: Couple tell court time is running out for blood disorder boy.

A husband and wife who want to create a genetically selected baby to save the life of their terminally-ill son yesterday warned that time was running out for them.

Raj and Shahana Hashmi told of the anguish the wait has caused their family, as a court appeal today could decide whether their four-year-old son Zain will live or die.

In December the High Court blocked the Leeds couple's attempts to have the baby which could save the life of Zain, who suffers from thalassaemia - a potentially fatal blood disorder.

The condition can normally only be treated by a bone marrow transplant from a donor with a suitable genetic match.

Mr Justice Maurice Kay ruled in December that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) did not have the legal power to allow the 'tissue typing' technique which offered a potential cure for Zain.

Mrs Hashmi said: 'We believe strongly that what we're doing is the right thing for Zain. He has a right to life and we are here to ensure that he gets that right.

'Zain has just turned four years old. To be successful he needs to have this done by the time he is five-and-a-half.'

If the appeal is unsuccessful and there are 'no other options' then 'unfortunately Zain will probably die', he said.

Having failed to find a donor in 2001, the Hashmi family applied to the HFEA for permission to use IVF to screen and select an embryo that would have the correct genetic match to allow cells to be used to cure Zain.

The HFEA granted permission last February but in December pro-life campaigner Josephine Quintavalle, acting on behalf of the public interest group Comment On Reproductive Ethics (Core), won a High Court ban on the treatment.

Core argued that this type of screening was 'ethically objectionable' and would mark the beginning of 'designer babies'. Mr Justice Maurice Kay ruled the HFEA overstepped its powers in licensing embryo selection by tissue typing and had not understood the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.

He held that the HFEA could only grant licences authorising treatments for pregnant women 'for the purpose of assisting women to carry children'.


Shahana and Raj (background) Hashmi during a press briefing yesterday
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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