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Title: Embryo Protection Act (Amendment) Bill no.5 : a position paper
Authors: Agius, Emmanuel
Calleja, Carlo
Attard Montalto, Simon
Calleja-Agius, Jean
Aquilina, Kevin
Savona Ventura, Charles
Zammit, Raymond
Callus, Anne-Marie
Grima, George
Bianchi, Daniel
Gauci, Maria Victoria
Sultana, Mark
Schembri Wismayer, Pierre
Keywords: Embryology, Human
Human embryo -- Moral and ethical aspects
Human reproductive technology -- Moral and ethical aspects
Surrogate motherhood
Fertilization in vitro -- Moral and ethical aspects
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Archdiocese of Malta
Citation: Agius, E., Calleja, C., Attard Montalto, S., Calleja-Aguis, J., Aquilina, K., Savona Ventura, C.,... Schembri Wismayer, P. (2022). Embryo Protection Act (Amendment) Bill no.5 : a position paper. Malta: University of Malta.
Abstract: This position paper, prepared by a multidisciplinary group of experts, seeks to respond to the amendments that the Government is planning on introducing to the Embryo Protection Act. We believe that the ‘Objects and Reasons’ stated at the end of the Bill do not reveal the real objective of one of the most morally sensitive interventions that would be permitted under the proposed amendments to the Act. The actual focus of the Bill appears to be pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) of monogenic disorders. How this fits into the objectives of the Bill is not clear. The objective of the Embryo Protection Act is the protection of the human embryo and the legitimate interests of the future child. Introducing in the principal Act a provision designed directly to prevent a human embryo from being born, because the embryo has a genetic disorder, makes a mockery of what the principal Act intended originally to do. The proposed amendment provides the option that embryos with a genetic condition may be offered for adoption. This is not a realistic offer but a ‘mute option’ from the outset and an ‘on-paper only’ exercise. Even worse, it is a ploy to assuage the moral concerns related to the discarding of such embryos. Among other concerns we list the following: First, the Bill states that a Protocol will be drawn up by the Embryo Protection Authority, listing the monogenic conditions that will be subject to this kind of selection. So far, the list of conditions that will be included in the Protocol is unknown and therefore legislators cannot deliberate on the consequences of the Bill until there is full disclosure. Second, irrespective of the conditions that will be listed by the Protocol, no embryo diagnosed with any condition should be subject to perpetual cryopreservation. To choose between embryos on the basis of their genetic make-up is discriminatory and constitutes a eugenic practice. Third, the possibility of adoption of these embryos is highly unlikely. The reason is that so far, none of the ‘surplus’ embryos that have been cryopreserved since 2018 have been adopted by unrelated couples. It is obvious, therefore, that these embryos will be preserved for perpetuity. Fourth, the Bill states that it is the Embryo Protection Authority which determines what constitutes and what does not constitute a eugenic practice and what is the maximum number of fertilized egg cells to be allowed in each treatment cycle. This shifts the decision-making authority from Parliament to the Embryo Protection Authority. The Bill removes the regulation of fundamental and controversial decisions from scrutiny by the House of Representatives, indispensable to a well-functioning democracy, and confers this function on unaccountable and political persons of trust. Therefore, rather than protecting the embryo, the proposed amendments violate its dignity, by freezing embryos with certain genetic defects forever. Moreover, the selection of embryos to be cryopreserved, as the Protocol may determine at some future date, amounts to a eugenic practice and undermines the dignity of persons already living with such conditions.
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