Three Parent Children
By Christian Action Research and Education (CARE)
In 2008 Parliament agreed to an embryology Bill that gave Government ministers the power to introduce regulations allowing three parent embryos. The Government made an assurance that regulations would only be considered once it was clear that the scientific procedures were safe.
In 2011 the Government asked the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to assess the safety and effectiveness of the procedure. The HFEA concluded that evidence did not indicate that the techniques are unsafe although it accepted that there was little robust evidence due to the fact that such techniques are so novel. The HFEA suggested that additional research be carried out to provide further safety information.
In June the Government decided to give its backing to the techniques, after the HFEA maintained that a consultation on three parent embryos was broadly supported by the public. If Parliament approves of the regulations then the first three-parent baby could be born in Britain by 2015.
Supporters claim that the techniques could eliminate mitochondrial disease, a genetic condition passed from mother to child. Mitochondria are the tiny, biological “power stations” found in human cells that give the body energy. Defects in the mitochondria can cause a range of serious problems including muscular dystrophy. On average, one child in 6500 is affected by a serious mitochondrial disease which may, in some instances, lead to death in infancy.
The technique involves collecting eggs from a donor with healthy mitochondria and a mother with damaged mitochondria. Doctors would then destroy the nucleus of the donor’s egg and insert the mother’s nucleus in its place, either before or after fertilisation by the father. The resulting egg could be implanted and fertilised if necessary using IVF techniques.
Scientist grow embryos from three parents
(This video’s was not originally posted with this article)
(1) Identity of the Future Child
These new techniques have significant implications for the understanding of human life. More than two individuals are participating in the generation of new life and therefore more than two people must be considered as parents. Moreover, the genes from the third person will be passed on down the generations and will be impossible to remove from the family. This raises serious issues of personal and family identity for children born as a result of these techniques.
(2) Engineering the genes of future generations
The intention of these new techniques is to alter the genes passed on to the new generation. This is ethically controversial, as no future generation will have given their consent to the procedures. No country in the world makes provision for such developments. The World Health Organisation has said, “germ-cell therapy, where there is an intention or possibility of altering the genes passed on to the next generation, should not be permitted in the foreseeable future.” The Council of Europe’s Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine explicitly prohibits modifications of the gene in future generations.
(3) Safety Concerns for the Prospective Child
Proponents of change have no way of predicting what the long-term consequences of these new techniques will be. The techniques involve cell nuclear replacement which has not yet been shown to work in humans. Whilst it appears to be effective in lower mammals like mice, use of such techniques in higher mammals has led to a considerable number of miscarriages and the birth of large numbers of abnormal offspring. The HFEA are clearly concerned about the affects such techniques could have on future generations and have advised that children born from these techniques should be monitored for a long period of time after birth. The risks involved in this process cannot be limited to the first generation; all future generations will be subject to risk.
(4) A New Eugenics?
This would be the first time intentional genetic modifications of descendents are considered and may give rise to further genetic alterations of human beings. Professor Lord Robert Winston has warned that major advances in genetic technologies could lead to a form of child “eugenics” that could have serious implications for the individuals involved and society in general. He says “we may find that people will want to modify their children, enhance their intelligence, their strength and their beauty and all the other so-called desirable characteristics.” Thirteen doctors and professors in the field of genetics or bioethics wrote to The Guardian newspaper warning them that the move “risks dehumanising and commodifying relationships between children and their parents.”They concluded “In our view, the benefit for a relatively small number of women of being genetically related to their child does not nearly justify the potential health risks to the child and the deleterious consequences of inheritable human genetic engineering.”
The current developments in the UK are unprecedented and are prohibited in almost every other Western country for good public safety and ethical reasons. In light of the ethical arguments relating to the undermining of the sense of identity of future generations, intrusion of a third party into the reproductive exclusivity of a couple, the biological risk to future generations and the legitimate fears about the long term consequences of modifying genes, it is clear that we should not be going down this route. Instead we should be focusing on finding real treatments for people suffering from mitochondrial disease and better support for them and their families. In addition to this, Christians must continue to proclaim the inherent value of all life, regardless of its state of health.
Read more: http://www.care.org.uk/advocacy/bioethics/threeparentchildren#sthash.nw6JvYqD.dpuf
CNN report June 2013: http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/28/health/uk-health-dna-ivf/