Germany OKs "Selecting the Healthy, Rejecting the Sick"

Bishops Denounce Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis

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ROME, JULY 14, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Germany's bishops responded to the July 7 government go-ahead for Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis with a reminder that the selection of a "healthy" embryo always entails the rejection of "unhealthy" human embryos -- and thus a violation of human dignity.

This was part of their response to the intense Lower Chamber debate that resulted in a 326-260 vote to allow PGD.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg im Breisgauand, president of the German Bishops' Conference, reminded in a statement that the "selection of human embryos violates the precept of human dignity, which respects all human beings from the beginning."

"Every human being is unique as a person and the bearer of a dignity that is not disposable, notwithstanding his level of development, his actual capacities, his talents, his strong and weak points or his social position, and this in all the phases of his existence," the bishops affirmed.

The Associated Press noted that "debates on procedures that involve genetic selection tend to be tinged in Germany by memories of the country's Nazi past including experiments on humans, but lawmakers didn't refer to that explicitly."

PGD allows embryos conceived in vitro to be subjected to genetic screening when there is a high risk of hereditary illness or malformations.

The law stipulates compulsory specialist consultation, the OK of an inter-disciplinary commission, and the woman's written consent. The examination is to be carried out only in authorized centers. In the case of a "positive" result, the "defective" embryo will not be implanted in the uterus of the mother, but will be destroyed.

The Church had voiced clear opposition to the legislation.

"We deplore profoundly today's decision," stated a communiqué published on the Web of the German Episcopal Conference after the July 7 vote. "We, the German bishops, have committed ourselves intensely with a clear prohibition of PGD."

Just a few days before the vote, in an interview with the KNA press agency taken up by Cologne's Domradio, Archbishop Zollitsch repeated that for the Catholic Church genetic diagnosis is "unacceptable because with it human beings decide who is worthy to live and who is not."

In mid-June, the archbishop released a joint statement with Bishop Gebhard Fürst, president of the episcopal conference sub-commission on bioethics.

In that letter, the two prelates of the southwestern region of Germany asserted that they understood fully the fears and anxieties of parents who are carriers of grave hereditary diseases, but they reminded also that the selection of a "healthy" embryo always entails the rejection of "unhealthy" human embryos.

Such a selection has a clear eugenic mark and in addition opens the door to embryonic selection based on sex or race, the bishops warned.

[Reporting by Paul Maeyer]