UK Boy Treated for Blood Disorder with Genetically Matched Sibling’s Stem Cells

LONDON, July 29, 2004 ( - A five year-old British boy Charlie Whitaker has received stem cell treatment for a rare blood disorder; the cells came from his genetically matched IVF baby brother. Last week the UK Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) decided to relax its rules to allow the creation of children specifically genetically selected in IVF labs to serve as tissue donors for sick siblings and other family members. Charlie’s parents, Michelle and Jayson went to the United States for the IVF procedures.  The controversy surrounded Charlie’s parents request to have the IVF procedure. They said the only hope for their child, who suffered from Diamond Blackfan Anaemia, was to have a matched tissue donor embryo created in a lab, implanted and brought to birth. Six months ago, Charlie’s brother Jamie, a genetic match, was born. His umbilical cord blood was used to obtain stem cells for Charlie’s treatment. Doctors do not know yet whether the stem cell treatment on Charlie has been successful.  Until July 21st, the UK did not allow the manufacture of human beings to be used as living tissue banks. Suzi Leather, head of the HFEA, said: “We have decided to relax the rules on embryo selection to enable all couples who want to be able to select an embryo who might be a tissue match for an existing seriously ill sibling to be able to do that.” The HFEA already allowed the eugenic ‘selection’ of the ‘unfit,’ those embryos that showed signs of genetic abnormalities. There is no public record of how many other siblings of Charlie’s were created and discarded when they failed the genetic selection process.  British pro-life advocates decried the decision saying it reduced a human being to a consumer product, and smacked of Nazi eugenics. Professor Jack Scarisbrick, national chairman of the charity Life, said, “We have gone yet further down the slippery slope in creating human beings to provide ‘spare parts’ for another.”

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