Current Concerns: Why did the National Council extend the draft law, as proposed by the Federal Council, on healthy couples, as well?
National Councillor Streiff: Many parliamentarians think that everything that is feasible is also correct. As for medicine, we will be able to clarify many more such conditions, as, for example, chromosomal abnormalities such as trisomy 21. Therefore, according to the majority of the parliament, we should not restrict ourselves to genetic diseases, but be allowed to make other checkups as well. This leads us on a slippery slope. They were already talking about the “saviour babies”, who many members of the National Council and the Council of States wanted to introduce. For us, this is a path in a direction that humanity should not go.
What must a layman understand by a “saviour baby”?
This is an embryo, who is suitable as a genetically compatible donor of stem cells for an affected sibling.
Another aspect is the question of discrimination. What is discriminatory in the process of embryo screening?
The discrimination is that it determines which life is worth living and which not. Everybody who lives with a disability, which shall then be excluded by the diagnostic process, will implicitly hear, that a human being like him or her is unwanted. This is obviously discriminating the disabled people of today.
You said in the press conference that the whole thing was really not a political issue, but a question of ethics. That is absolutely true, isn’t it?
Our approach to these things depends on our view of man. We quasi decide what human being is worth living and who shall not live. Doesn’t such attitude not contain the goal that we want a society without any illness or disability? Do we have room in our society for the disabled? Do we consider people with a disability as enrichment or as an obstacle for all of us? This depends on our view of man (“Menschenbild”). It is based on an ethical conception, isn’t it? And associated with a religious attitude, as well.
The advocates are argueing with the pressure from abroad and that Switzerland must conform. How do you see that?
For me, this is altogether clear: Not everything that is feasible must be put it into practice. We must not bow to any pressure from abroad just because those who want to apply such a procedure have greater leave to do so. For me, this whole preimplantation diagnostics does not mean any progress, but a dangerous step back. If you look at history, we see that there was such kind of selection once before. Do we want that?
To what extent is the economic aspect relevant?
The pharmaceutical industry and the research sector – this cannot be argued away – have a great interest in it. If you imagine that all the couples that can be artificially inseminated want to take these tests, it becomes clear how much money you can make with it. Here, too, there are economic interests involved; that cannot be denied.
How could one initiate a dispute among the population about this ethical issue?
What will happen if we do not consider the protection of life as the ultimate principle? We need to seriously discuss this issue in society. We need to point out, what the consequences are if you no longer protect life, but decide which life should be protected and which is not worth any protection. This must become a central topic.
What would be the consequences if the protection of life was no longer considered the ultimate principle?
It would lead to a complete loss of solidarity towards people with a disability. This question also influences discussions about the end of life or serious illnesses. How much may a human being cost us? Is it worthwhile to accompany a serious illness? In that case we will soon end up with the question of euthanasia. If a man or a woman has the impression that he or she was a burden to society and would cost too much, we will have completed a development, which is very dangerous for our society and human life. We have to prevent that with a No on 14 June.
National Councillor Mrs Streiff, thank you for the interview. •
(Interviews Thomas Kaiser)
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