The door to the selection of human beings must never be opened

The door to the selection of human beings must never be opened

Press conference of the committee “No to PID” (Pre-implantation diagnostics)

thk. On 30 March the national committee “No to PID” invited to attend the start of the campaign in the media centre of the “Bundeshaus” (Parliament Building) in Bern. The national committee “No to PID” clearly spoke out against the introduction of pre-implantation diagnostics (PID) and against the amendment of the Constitution on 14 June. The supposedly harmless constitutional amendment (Art. 119 Para. 2c) throw open the doors to the specific selection of human beings. The revision of the Federal Act on Medically Assisted Reproduction  of Federal Constitution (Implementing Act BV Art. 119) already approved by the parliament on 14 December 2014 cannot become law until the Swiss people and cantons amend the constitution on 14 June. This revision of the law which is highly problematic allows pre-implantation diagnostics including examination of embryos for chromosomal anomalies of all kinds (chromosomal screening) as well as the deep-freezing of surplus embryos. The non-partisan committee “No to PID” rejects these changes and their consequences with all determinedness. Therefore on 14 June the committee is running against the amendment of the constitution.
Podium members were representatives of different parties. The alliance from right to left was successful here, as Marianne Streiff, of the Evangelical People’s Party (EVP) and Member of the National Council, emphasised at the press conference. In her opinion it is not a political, but an ethical question. “The national committee is composed  of representatives of the Civic Democratic Party (BDP), Christian Democratic People’s Party (CVP), Evangelical People’s Party (EVP), Swiss Social Democratic Party (SP), and Swiss Popular Party (SVP)”. Present at the press conference were the Members of National Council Christine Bulliard-Marbach (CVP), Christian Lohr (CVP), Marianne Streiff (EVP), Dominique de Buman (CVP) und Sylvia Flückiger-Bäni (SVP). Marianne Streiff indicated that with the amendment of the Constitution Art.119 it is permitted to produce more embryos than necessary for an in vitro fertilisation (IVF). That means, more embryos are produced than needed for a pregnancy. Therewith surplus embryos existed which could be used for  uncertain purposes. They could be deep-freezed or misused for research purposes, so the concerns of the No-committee.
The Swiss parliament (National Council and Council of States) had substantially modified the Federal Council’s proposal for the revision of the Federal Act on Medically Assisted Reproduction which wanted to permit PID only for parents with a severe hereditary disease. According to the parliamentary decision now, all embryos resulting from a medically assisted reproduction could be screened for genetic defects and also chromosomal abnormalities (for example trisomy 21). According to the No-committee ethical barriers would be brought down meaning indeed a paradigm shift in medicine. “We want to prevent that the door to selection of human beings will be opened”. For Marianne Streiff PID ”clearly is an instrument for selection of “a life worth living” and “an unworthy life”. Even Councellor Alain Berset warned both chambers against the danger of “selection” and “eugenic tendencies” inherent in these methods of examination.
For Member of National Council Dominique de Buman the extension of article 119 is a further step towards a limitless reproductive medicine. With regard to the US-American practice, he said: “Is PID allowed as a start it is not a big step towards the approval of designer babies”. This might lead to a selection of sex, eye- and hair colour as well as mental and physical abilities. So called “rescue babies” were already being discussed.
National Councillor Sylvia Flücker-Bäni is alarmed: “With the planned constitutional amendment nearly no protection of the embryo is going to remain.” In case the law that follows was enacted,  the constitutional amendment, which aims at lifting the ban on the deep-freezing of embryos, thousands of surplus embryos could be deep-freezed. This is what Sylvia Flückiger-Bäni opposes because ”human life is a miracle and never must be degenerated to be a means to an end”.
Member of National Council Christine Bulliard-Marbach criticised PID to be not a progress but the opposite. “Instead of doing research for new therapies, possibly disabled or ill people are simply eliminated.” Moreover she pointed out that PID could “never test all known genetic defects at the same time”.
Member of National Council Christian Lohr warned against the discriminating consequences of PID for people with disabilities. “If we continue on this path, we are stigmatising people with disabilities as ‘not worth living’. People with disabilities would be seen as unwanted and avoidable  risks and burdens in case the amendment was enacted. This would have severe consequences for our living together in society. He believed that PID would exert a strong pressure on future  parents to avoid disabled life, he argued.
This press conference meant the start of a public discussion which has to be urgently conducted between citizens of our country, in which the ethical question mentioned by member of National Council Streiff must be paramount. In the following two interviews members of National Council Christine Bulliard-Marbach and Marianne Streiff explain their reasons why they stand up against the introduction of the new constitutional article. Current Concerns will accompany the important public debate on PID with additional articles.    •
(Translation Current Concerns)

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