This week the UK House of Commons voted to allow scientists to create human embryos with three different parents – a father and two mothers. The bill would allow the mitochondrial material in the first mother’s egg to be replaced by mitochondrial material from the second mother’s egg. It would open the door to human genetic modification, with unknown consequences.
“This bill is bad news for humankind,” FamilyVoice research officer Ros Phillips said today. “I and many others hope it will be defeated in the House of Lords – for several reasons:
• This bill would authorise risky experimentation with human beings. We do not know enough about the interaction of mitochondrial DNA with nuclear DNA. Any manipulation of a human embryo’s DNA, including mitochondrial transfer, is experimental. We do not have the right to experiment with the lives and wellbeing of future children.
• This is the first time approval would be given to alter the germ line. The changes to the DNA would be passed on to all future descendants of any child created by this process. We certainly don't know enough to be making this kind of change for future generations.
• Those supporting this bill have a worthy intention – to allow women whose ova carry a mitochondrial disease to bear a child with most of her genes, but without the disease. However, good intentions are not enough. We cannot ignore what could happen to a child's sense of identity if we deliberately give the child three genetic parents - a mitochondrial mother, a nuclear genetic mother and a genetic father.
• “We already know that children created through other forms of mixed parenthood such as donor IVF or donor insemination can suffer identity bewilderment. This is a cruel burden to impose on a child, merely to satisfy adult desires.”
Ros Phillips said she would encourage couples faced with this problem to consider adopting a child who already exists and needs a loving family.
- Family and parenthood