Judges have ruled that a ban preventing an Italian couple from screening embryos for cystic fibrosis before starting in vitro fertilisation breached human rights laws.
In its 28 August judgement of the case of Costa and Pavan v. Italy (application no. 54270/10), the European Court of Human Rights decided that Italy had violated Rosetta Costa and Walter Pavan’s right to respect for their private and family life.
The couple found out that they were healthy carriers of the disease in 2006, after their daughter was born with cycstic fibrosis.
The couple now want to have a child by in vitro fertilisation (‘IVF’), so that the embryo can be genetically screened prior to implantation (preimplantation diagnosis – ‘PID’).
Italian law prohibits PID3. It does allow IVF for sterile couples or those in which the man has a sexually transmissible disease4 such as HIV or hepatitis B and C, to avoid the risk of transmitting the infection.
The court noted the inconsistency in Italian law that denied the couple access to embryo screening but authorised medically-assisted termination of pregnancy if the foetus showed symptoms of the same disease.
The Court concluded that the interference with the applicants’ right to respect for their private and family life was disproportionate.
Under the terms of Just Satisfaction, the court held that Italy was to pay the applicants 15,000 euros (EUR) in respect of nonpecuniary damage and EUR 2,500 in respect of costs and expenses.