The Italian government on Wednesday announced that it has appealed a recent decision [judgment, in French] by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] that the country violated the rights of a couple with cystic fibrosis by preventing them from screening in vitro fertilization (IVF) embryos. The couple, who already have one child with cystic fibrosis, brought suit after they sought an embryo screening as a precautionary method for future children and were denied under medical law. Issued in August, the judgment stated that Italy's Law 40 [text, PDF, in Italian], a ban on embryonic screening titled "Rules on Medically Assisted Procreation," violates Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights for failing to recognize the right to privacy and family life. The ECHR ordered the Italian government to pay the couple €17,500 (USD $21,900) in damages and court fees.
The Italian government planned to appeal the ECHR's ruling [Corriere della Sera report] immediately after it was issued, and were given until this week to do so. The country's Law 40 is controversial in light of its ban on IVF, which is a type of fertility treatment for couples who have had difficulty conceiving children or wish to avoid passing genetic traits on to their children. Through IVF, a woman's eggs are removed and fertilized outside the body. Successfully fertilized embryos are then implanted into the woman for gestation. Italy has defended its ban [Reuters report] on embryonic screening by claiming that it wishes to avoid risks of eugenic abuses and the potential for future "designer babies." The largely Catholic nation has some of the strictest artificial procreation laws in Europe.