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Europe rights court rejects Italy appeal on embryonic screening law

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on Monday refused to reconsider an August ruling [judgment, in French] that Italy's ban on screening embryos for diseases before they are implanted in a womb violates parents' rights. The court found that this provision of Law 40 [text, in Italian] violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF] by failing to recognize the right to privacy and family life. The Italian government appealed [JURIST report] the ruling in November, defending the ban [Reuters report] as a means to avoid risks of eugenic abuses and a potential future of "designer babies." The law was challenged last year by a couple that already had one child with cystic fibrosis and sought an embryo screening as a precautionary method for future children. The ECHR ordered the Italian government to pay the couple €17,500 (USD $21,900) in damages and court fees.

Law 40 has not only been challenged for its ban on screening embryos, but also for its ban on using embryos for scientific research, which has been a controversial issue internationally. Last month the US Supreme Court [official website] denied certiorari [JURIST report] in a case challenging federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. In December a court in Florence struck down [JURIST report] Law 40's ban on research using embryos, saying that it unconstitutionally violates fundamental health and freedom of research rights. That case will next move up to be considered by the Italian Constitutional Court [official website]. In 2008 Brazil's high court upheld a law [JURIST report] allowing embryos to be used in stem cell research, rejecting a claim that the law infringed on the constitutional right to life.

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