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Most Americans Approve of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis Used to Avoid Disease, But Not for Designing a Baby

October 20 , 2014
by: ASRM Office of Public Affairs
Published in ASRM Press Release

Honolulu, Hawaii- Researchers from the University of California San Francisco and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, surveying a cross-section of the American public, found that most approve of the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to identify diseases fatal early in life and diseases that cause lifelong disability.  The public, in general, is not supportive of selecting embryos for genetically-based traits, however specific opinions may vary a great deal depending on the race, sex, and education level of those who hold them.

In an online survey, 1066 United States residents between the ages of 18 and 75 answered questions about PGD use in various clinical situations. While large majorities supported using PGD to identify diseases that strike in childhood (73%) or cause disability (67%), only 48% supported it to de-select embryos at risk of adult-onset disease.  

When it comes to using PGD to select embryos with particular traits, the American public is less enthusiastic.  Overall, 21% support its use for sex selection, 19% for personality traits, 15% for physical traits, and 13% for sexual orientation.

Differences of opinion emerge when survey respondents are sorted into demographics. People with a graduate degree were more opposed to PGD for sex selection and selection for physical traits and personality than those without a college degree. Compared to Caucasians, Asians were four times as likely to approve of the use of PGD for sex selection; African Americans were less opposed to its use for sex selection and selecting for physical and personality traits. Men were two to three times more supportive than women of PGD for physical and personality traits, sex selection, and sexual orientation.  

All respondents were more likely to be supportive of PGD use if they had prior knowledge of it, before answering the survey questions.

Charles Coddington, MD, President of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, noted, “PGD is an incredibly valuable tool to help people with a family risk for genetic disease to have healthy children. While it is only used in about 5% of IVF cases, its potential uses excite the imagination and opinions of the public.  This survey has shown clinicians and researchers how the public views PGD and may help form future policies.”

O-75 W Winkelman et al, “Public Perspectives on Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) from a Nationally Representative Sample” 

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, founded in 1944, is an organization of more than 7,000 physicians, researchers, nurses, technicians and other professionals dedicated to advancing knowledge and expertise in reproductive biology.  Affiliated societies include the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, the Society of Reproductive Surgeons and the Society of Reproductive Biologists and Technologists. 


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