The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

PIGD

Michael Asciak Sunday, 23 June 2019, 09:42 Last update: about 30 days ago

It could have been the writing on the wall, that when this government changed the IVF law to allow the freezing of human embryos, it was actually preparing the way for more changes to follow – a slippery slope argument all the way.

I argued then, as I still do now, that the real reason for that to happen was not the increased prospects of success but the intentions to have an accumulating spare capacity of embryos to use as one wishes – such as donations to couples of whatever sex wanting to adopt them. In fact, I pointed out then that the use of IVF statistics using frozen eggs was not so very different from the use of IVF using frozen embryos. The statistics were pretty much the same and varied by plus or minus two or three per cent.

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So, there was not so much to write about in terms of efficacy –  not that efficiency or efficacy should ever rule the roost where human lives are at stake! In fact, the latest statistics by the Embryo Protection Authority prove this point, because the take-home baby rate in recent years has fluctuated pretty much around the main figure of 19 per cent and last year’s, figure including cycles with the new law, is 18 per cent.

So, effectively, things have remained practically the same! The number of embryos frozen since the adoption of the new law in 2018 is already 16 in less than a year! Sixteen human beings frozen in time – possibly, and probably, for some – forever!

The real break in statistics has to come now with the introduction of PIGD or PGD, Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis. This is what this next step – this outcry for PIGD to be introduced – is all about. It involves the taking of cells from the early embryo – after IVF and before transfer to the mother’s womb – and if any genetic defects are found, they are not transferred to the mother’s womb but left to be frozen until later thawed or they are simply left to die or to be experimented upon.

The funny thing is that when embryo freezing was introduced, one of the excuses brought up was that there could be embryos left over for couples who want to adopt them. Now, may I ask, will couples adopt embryos that have been eugenically rejected by others, because they contain certain genetic defects? And if we all have genetic defects to the degree of five or six mutations, which embryos are to be transferred to the womb and which embryos will be left out?

I think it is an insult to the individuals who have genetic issues such as Down’s Syndrome, and those who look after them, to be told that they would have been destined to be exterminated by society, had their parents been given the opportunity to do so!

Why stop at Down’s Syndrome, when there are so many other people with other issues such as depression, asthma, cancer and hypertension that can all be genetically pre-determined?

Do we exterminate these people too? Are we on a quest to find the holy grail of a genetically perfect human being who could just as easily be knocked down by a car and killed in the same way as all those of us who are genetically inferior and face death by other means? Are we trying to replicate the unsocial and uncivil world of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World or try to replicate Hitler’s experiments to obtain blue-eyed, fair-haired Aryans?

I have always said that this government’s intentions lie elsewhere. It speaks with sweet tongues but the ends are maleficently clear. The real issue at stake here is the issue of the beginning of human life. Many do not accept the dictates of science that a new human life starts at conception! This is proven by the science of embryology and that of genetics. The whole process is clear. The preparation of germ cells (sperm/ova) in meiosis in the mature adult, is geared towards the inception of a new human embryo at fertilisation, which new genetically unique cell has a totipotency to develop to birth and adulthood – if allowed to – and which has an intrinsically active potency to develop apart from that of the mother or the father.

It is a human being biologically and a human person with its own individuality from day one philosophically. One can read the works of several geneticists (Jerome Lejeune) and embryologists (O’Rahilly and Mueller) and the facts are staring us in the face. Of course, we may refuse to believe them and rather go with perceptions! However, perceptions never partake of the field of science, they partake of the field of emotions which forms a good portion of the field of politics. In politics we believe what we want to believe (at a price, because there is an objective politics) and of course one can bring up a hundred arguments and excuses why we should ultimately do PIGD and, of course, with the same argument: why we should have abortion on the cards.

The facts are, however, even politically clear. The human being has a right to life, a right to be respected once brought into the world. Other human beings have rights too, such as the right to one’s own health and the right to choose. However, like all rights, our own rights are circumscribed by the rights of others around us, if we live in a community. The right to innocent human life is one of the very few absolute rights there is. The other is that of human dignity. Prima Facie, it ought to follow that the right to innocent human life, trumps certain other rights. This is like the right to freedom of expression being trumped by the rights of others not being denied their good reputations which is why libel laws exist in the first place.

Article 33 in our Constitution is clear: no one should be deprived of the right to life – even those human beings conceived by men in a laboratory!

 

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