Say NO to the production and destruction of surplus embryos

Signature deadline: end of November 2015 – deadline of the referendum: 10 December 2015

Referendum against the amendment of the Reproductive Medicine Act  (FMedG)

About 50 representatives of the political parties BDP, CVP, EDU, the Greens, SP, and SVP are responsible for the referendum against the Reproductive Medicine Act that in the present version is far exceeding the original objectives of the Federal Council. With the slogan diversity rather than selection, furthermore 18 organisations support the referendum. “Due to their social engagement”, as they have stated in a press release, “they favour a society without pressure to standardisation, as they want to live in an inclusive, caring society; to live together on an equal basis with both healthy and sick people, and people with and without disabilities.”

During the signature collection process for the referendum “Say No to this Reproductive Medicine Act”, the question is often asked why it is necessary to launch another referendum, although we have voted on pre-implantation diagnostics (PID) already in summer. The reason for the referendum will be explained here once again:
•    On 14 June 2015, the Swiss people accepted the amendment to the constitutional Article 119 (2c). Thus genetic testing of artificially produced embryos (in vitro fertilisation, IVF), before they are transferred to the uterus (pre-implantation diagnostics, PID) has become possible in principle.
•    The Law on Reproductive Medicine investigates how to implement PID. The law, approved by the parliament, would be implemented without a referendum and would allow PID without any limits. All embryos produced outside the mother’s womb could be tested and selected in a test tube (in vitro) by all technically available genetic tests!
•     The use of PID needs clear ethical boundaries. Therefore, the new Law on Reproductive Medicine has to be rejected to the parliament. One possible limit would be the approval of PID for parents with serious hereditary diseases.

Major changes in the new Law on Reproductive Medicine

Applications of PID: Art. 5a ( 1–3)

A central change is the implementation of the new Article 5a (1-3), entitled “In vitro genetic analysis of reproductive cells and embryos and their selection”. Thereby the genetic search for hereditary diseases in genetically predisposed couples, as well for chromosomal defects in germ cells and embryos in all couples would become possible. This means that, in general, all embryos produced outside the mother’s womb could be tested and selected in a test tube by all technically available genetic tests. With this examination, for example, embryos with Down Syndrome (trisomy 21) could be eliminated before their transplantation into the womb.
The wording is:
Title Art. 5a new FMedG: „In vitro genetic analysis of reproductive cells and embryos and their selection”.  
Art. 5a (3): “Furthermore, they are admissible for the detection of chromosomal characteristics, which could affect the developmental capacity of the embryo”.
One may note here the blur, both in the first and the second part of the sentence!
From the rule of three to the rule of twelve: Art. 17 (1)

Now twelve embryos may be developed per treatment cycle. In the current law, there are only three. Therefore, an excessive number of supernumerary embryos will be generated.

Approval of the conservation of embryos!

Today the conservation of embryos is prohibited (Art. 17 (3), FMedG). This provision is to be repealed and the so-called cryopreservation, namely, the deep-freezing of embryos, would be allowed. Related damages to the embryo, which might occur, are still unknown.

Arguments

NO to the selection of embryos!

By the new Article 5a paragraph 1–3 – besides the already problematic screening for hereditary in  a few couples per annum – an extraordinary extension of the nationwide screening for chromosomal disorders in all cases of in-vitro-fertilisation (IVF) would become possible. So the screened embryos could be eliminated in case of abnormalities as for example trisomy of chromosome 21 (DownSyndrome). Moreover embryos could be damaged through the examination or be fatally injured. Healthy embryos could be sorted out by mistake.
The pre-implantation genetic diagnostics (PID) including chromosomal screening entailes the selection of the so-called best embryos in the laboratory. It selects between life worth living and inferior life. This sends out wrong signals for our society and their human future and belongs in the chapter of eugenics.

NO to an “experiment in vivo”

According to the European umbrella organisation for reproductive medicine the benefit of chromosomal screening for childless couples is not scientifically proven. According to studies the prospect of success for a pregnancy is even lower after the screening. Therefore for example the German PID centre in Lübeck advises decidedly against this technique on its website. The procedure of a chromosomal screening of human embryos without proven benefit is an “in vivo experiment” and unethical.

NO to salami-slicing policy leading to an unrestricted reproductive medicine

With a NO you set an example against a continual extension towards an unrestricted reproductive medicine to the legislator. Some politicians already demand the production of “rescue babies” and (the permission of) ovum donation. For some even embryo donation and surrogate motherhood which are prohibited by constitution are no longer a taboo. All those demands may be realised in an “optimised” way by the amended Reproductive Medicine Act.

NO to discrimination of people with disabilities and their parents!

The chromosomal check leads to the discrimination of people with disabilities by seeing them as unwanted and preventable risks. It further leads to an insidious erosion of solidarity in society. Consequences might be the denial of services by social and health insurances. On the other hand parents might in future have to justify themselves if they decide against an examination of the embryo and for a child with disabilities.

NO to commercialisation of human life!

By allowing chromosomal screening for all in vitro fertilised embryos, Switzerland would have a pioneering role in Europe, because in many European countries PID is exclusively allowed in case of screening for hereditary diseases, or the screening for chromosomal disorders is permitted only by medical indication.
Neither shall our country be advertised as profitable opportunity for foreign reproductive physicians nor shall Switzerland provide reproductive tourism for female foreigners.

NO to production and elimination of surplus embryos!

Lifting the ban of deep-freezing for embryos is not acceptable: Because about 40 embryos have to be produced for one successful delivery, thousands of surplus embryos had to be left to an uncertain destiny or had to be eliminated by no later than ten years.
In the law passed by the parliament, which would be enforced without referendum, PID would be possible without limits.
This referendum accomplishes the opportunity that we can go on with the urgently necessary ethical debate about life and living together in our country.

Dr med. Susanne Lippmann-Rieder