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Perspectives on PGD: meeting report

9 December 2009

On Friday 20th November the PFGS held its latest regional meeting at Birkbeck College, London. The meeting’s agenda: to discuss a range of perspectives and issues on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).

The morning session consisted of two papers that focussed on primarily legal issues. Peter Lovett discussed PGD from a legal theory perspective, considering not only the role and abilities of the law but also the potential for the involvement of the law in areas that are not covered under the existing HFE act.

This was followed by an illuminating paper by Sharon Persaud who considered the specific application of PGD in the creation of saviour siblings. Using the work of Luhmann as a theoretical backdrop she provided an eloquent discussion of how Luhmannian thinking can be brought to bear on the topic.

The afternoon part of the day consisted of two further papers before entering into a roundtable discussion. Haniwarda Yaakob provided a discussion of PGD in the Malaysian context, highlighting many of the arguments made for and against PGD, with particular reference to cultural context and its influence on the use of PGD for sex selection. This was followed by a stimulating presentation by Anne-Marie Jones who discussed PGD from the disability perspective, reflecting in particular on issues of identity and PGD’s potential to impact negatively upon people living with the genetic impairments the technology seeks to prevent.

The remainder of the day was given over to a roundtable discussion that deliberated many of the issues raised, but also others including the oft missing topic of risk to the mother from the processes of PGD as well as comparisons with termination of pregnancy.

Whilst the programme formally included a discursive component, in reality this intimate and informal meeting excelled in the level of debate achieved and it was one of those rare occasions where all the participants were actively engaged, resulting in a highly productive event. An outcome of the meeting has been that the discussions are to be taken forward in the form of a collaborative research group to further explore the issues brought up on the day.

This author for one is looking forward to the outcome of this, and is highly anticipating the next series of PFGS regional meetings, set to take place in the spring.

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Interested in hosting a PFGS regional meeting at your university? Send a brief outline of the topic you would like to cover (no more than 250 words) to pfgsmtgs AT gmail DOT com. A small budget is available to pay for catering and travel expenses for participants.

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