PGD and society
Ever since the summer of 2008, when politicians debated the question of whether to allow PGD in patients at high risk of giving birth to a child with hereditary breast cancer, people in the Netherlands have become more knowledgeable on the subject of PGD. There has been a marked increase over the last few years in the number of people inquiring after the possibility of PGD and in the number of actual PGD procedures performed. Even so, relatively few couples in the Netherlands actually go through with the procedure – fewer than the number of couples who are found through prenatal diagnosis to be at high risk of giving birth to a child with an inherited disease. This may be due to a lack of knowledge regarding PGD, both on the healthcare professionals’ part and on potential PGD candidates’ part. However, it seems more likely that couples choose not to undergo PDG due to the fact that the IVF treatments which are inherent in PGD procedures are so physically and emotionally testing. Scientific research will have to demonstrate whether this is indeed the case.
Since the 2008 debate, PGD has been known to the public as ‘embryo selection’.The discussions held at the time showed that embryo selection, and embryo screening in general, is a politically and ethically sensitive subject on which representatives of various political parties, scientists and even potential users hold diametrically opposed views. Ever since PGD was introduced in the Netherlands in 1995, ethicists have been actively involved in defining its scope. It’s a good thing that society at large has become more involved in the debate as to what we can and are allowed to do, and how far we are allowed to take things.