BACKGROUND: Genetic testing of preimplantation embryos has been used for preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and preimplantation genetic screening (PGS). Microarray technology is being introduced in both these contexts, and is to be expected that also whole genome sequencing of blastomeres will become possible. The amount of extra information such tests will yield may prove to be beneficial for embryo selection, but also raise various ethical issues. We present an overview of the developments and an agenda-setting exploration of the ethical issues.
METHODS: The paper is a joint endeavour by the presenters at an explorative 'campus meeting' organized by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in cooperation with the department of Health, Ethics & Society of the Maastricht University (The Netherlands).
RESULTS: The increasing amount and detail of information that new screening techniques such as microarrays and whole genome sequencing offer does not automatically coincide with an increasing understanding of the prospects of an embryo. From a technical point of view, the future of comprehensive embryo testing may go together with developments in preconception carrier screening. From an ethical point of view, the increasing complexity and amount of information yielded by comprehensive testing techniques will lead to challenges to the principle of reproductive autonomy and the right of the child to an open future, and may imply a possible larger responsibility of the clinician towards the welfare of the future child. “Smart combinations” of preconception carrier testing and embryo testing may solve some of these ethical questions but could introduce others.
CONCLUSION: As comprehensive testing techniques are entering the IVF clinic, there is a need for a thorough rethinking of traditional ethical paradigms regarding medically assisted reproduction.