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Chromosome screening in the context of IVF

Posted in Business, Screening, Termination by Matt at WelcometoIllinois on July 31, 2008

Reading this press release from the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine reminded me that (for me at least) there are few easy answers when it comes to the pro-life/choice debate.

The release outlines how the centre has improved its IVF success rates with a technique involving comprehensive screening of all 23 pairs of chromosomes on day five embryos. Given my new-found awareness of Down’s syndrome I was initially uncomfortable when I read that the embryos are screened for the number of chromosomes before they are transfered to the prospective mother.

Then I had to remember why IVF is carried out and that fetuses with Down’s syndrome are far more likely to be miscarried. I was reminded that when we were deciding whether keeping our baby was the right thing to do for us I couldn’t help thinking of the great many people out there (including some family friends) desperate for a child (any child) of their own.

In that context I would certainly support screening for abnormalities to improve the chances of conception.

The press release explains: “The goal of comprehensive chromosomal screening is to reduce the likelihood of implantation failure, miscarriage, and/or aneuploid offspring (i.e., Down syndrome), by only transferring embryos that have the correct number of chromosomes.”

There’s something about that “and/or” that is still quite unsettling. I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of screening for abnormalities simply to avoid the chances of Down’s syndrome but in the context of IVF treatment it would seem to me to be the practical thing to do.

Like I said, few easy answers.

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