Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis and 'Saviour Siblings'

International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Vol. 88, pp. 91-96, 2005

6 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2005

See all articles by Bernard Dickens

Bernard Dickens

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law


From its emergence, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) has been opposed by religious, feminist and disability-rights advocates. PGD has developed, however, to extend beyond genetic diagnosis of embryos to diagnose chromosomal abnormalities. Evidence shows that PGD is safe, children born after in vitro fertilization (IVF) and PGD having no higher rate of birth defects than children of normal pregnancies. Laws may accommodate PGD directly or indirectly, but some prohibit PGD totally or except to identify sex-linked genetic disorders. When children suffer severe genetic disorders and require stem-cell transplantation, compatible donors may be unavailable. Then, IVF and PGD of resulting embryos may identify some whose gestation and birth would produce unaffected newborns, and placental and cord blood from which stem-cells compatible for implantation in sick siblings can be derived. Ethical issues concern conscientious objection to direct participation, discarding of healthy but unsuitable embryos, and valuing saviour siblings in themselves, not just as means to others' ends.

Keywords: Preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Genetic diagnosis, Chromosomal abnormality, Genetic disease, Aneuploidy, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (UK), Saviour siblings

Suggested Citation

Dickens, Bernard, Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis and 'Saviour Siblings'. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Vol. 88, pp. 91-96, 2005. Available at SSRN:

Bernard Dickens (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

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