LONDON, March 20 (UPI) -- More marriages between first cousins in Britain are leading to more children born with genetic diseases, a bioethicist warns.
Ruth Deech, who sits in the House of Lords as Baroness Deech and chaired the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority for eight years, plans to call for a government campaign against the practice, The Times of London reports. Deech also argues that marriage between close relatives, common in Britain's large Pakistani community, deters integration of immigrants and their families into the larger community.
More than half, 55 percent, of British Pakistanis are in first-cousin marriages. While only 3 percent of newborns are Pakistani, they account for about one-third of children born with diseases caused by recessive genes.
Deech does not want to ban first-cousin marriages. Instead she plans to call for genetic testing of parents and embryos.
"Human rights and religious and cultural practices are respected by not banning cousin marriage," she plans to say in a speech next week at the Museum of London. "But those involved must be made aware of the consequences."
Deech's lecture is the last in a series she has given on children and families.