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Italy appeals European court's ruling on embryo screening

ROME (Reuters) - Italy has appealed a European Court of Human Rights ruling that it violated the rights of a couple carrying cystic fibrosis by preventing them from screening in vitro fertilization (IVF) embryos, the Rome government said on Wednesday.

The Strasbourg-based court ordered Italy in August to pay the couple 17,500 euros ($22,600) in damages and expenses for refusing to let the embryos be screened to avoid giving the disease to any future children.

Rome said in a statement that it was appealing the decision because the European court should have waited for the matter to be handled by the Italian judicial system.

Under Italian law the only alternative for the couple was to conceive a child and abort the foetus if it was found to have cystic fibrosis, which they had already done once.

The couple found out that they were carriers of the disease after their first child was born with it. They wanted to have a second child by IVF so that the embryo could be screened and aborted if it also was found to have cystic fibrosis.

They brought the case before the European court because predominantly Catholic Italy is one of the few European countries with a ban on screening embryos before they are implanted.

The Italian government had sought to justify the ban on the grounds that it was needed to protect the health of the mother and child and avoid the risk of eugenic abuses.

(Reporting By Catherine Hornby; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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