LONDON, February 25, 2002 ( – Britain’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) decided Friday to allow in vitro fertilization to be used to have children born with close genetic matches to older siblings in order to be able to provide bone marrow transplants. HFEA approved the request of Raj and Shahana Hashmi who were looking to use IVF to select a child with a bone marrow match for their three-year-old Zain who suffers from the rare and potentially fatal blood disorder thalassaemia.

As with all IVF treatment, the procedure creates many embryos (live children) and implants only a few, the rest of which are either frozen and stored, discarded and thus destroyed/killed, donated to research resulting in their death or given to other couples for adoption. A child with the specific genetic match is selected from among the created embryos using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.

Although HFEA said this was a very rare case and that the decision would not be precedent setting, the BBC is reporting today that there are another six families looking to have ‘designer babies’ for similar reasons. While the Hashami’s say that the extra embryos created will be frozen rather than destroyed, experts in the field have noted that only about half of all embryos survive the freezing and thawing process.

See the BBC coverage: