The European Court legitimates access of Italian couples to assisted reproductive techniques and to pre-implantation genetic diagnosis

Med Sci Law. 2015 Jul;55(3):194-200. doi: 10.1177/0025802414532245. Epub 2014 Apr 28.


On 28 August 2012, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a judgment regarding the requirements for the legitimate access of couples to assisted reproductive techniques (ART) and to pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). This judgment concerns the case of an Italian couple who found out after their first child was born with cystic fibrosis that they were healthy carriers of the disease. When the woman became pregnant again in 2010 and underwent fetal screening, it was found that the unborn child also had cystic fibrosis, whereupon she had the pregnancy terminated on medical grounds. In order to have the embryo genetically screened prior to implantation under the procedure of PGD, the couple sought to use in vitro fertilisation to have another child. Since article 1 of the Italian law strictly limits access to ART to sterile/infertile couples or those in which the man has a sexually transmissible disease, the couple appealed to the European court, raising the question of the violation of articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The applicants lodged a complaint that they were not allowed legitimate access to ART and to PGD to select an embryo not affected by the disease. The European Court affirmed that the prohibition imposed by Italian law violated article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Focusing on important regulatory and legal differences among EU Nations in providing ART treatments and PGD, we derived some important similarities and differences.

Keywords: Assisted reproduction; European Court; Italian law; genetic preimplantation diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Legal Case

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Genetic Testing / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Services Accessibility / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Preimplantation Diagnosis*
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted / legislation & jurisprudence*