Three parents for a baby: the debate opens in the United Kingdom

Publié le : 9 July 2013

 The British government has given the green light to the opening in Parliament of a debate on a "technique of assisted procreation whereby the NDA of three parents is used to create an embryo in good health." A bill currently being drafted by the government is due to be submitted to Parliament next year.           

The aim of this technique called "three-parent IVF" is to prevent the mother from passing on genetic diseases such as certain types of myopathy owing to her defective mitochondrial DNA. How? By replacing 1% of the mother’s defective mitochondrial DNA – the cause of these diseases – by “healthy” DNA provided by a donor, hence the term "three-parent". The procedure was developed by Prof. Doug Turnbull of Newcastle University. It is currently authorised for laboratory research "but the embryos obtained cannot be used for implants to obtain births".            
But the legalisation of this procedure raises questions on numerous points, such as the status of the donor women (free or compensated donation, the donor’s anonymity, etc.) and the question of the eventual right of these women with regard to the child that is born.     
This announcement has aroused numerous reactions denouncing the abuses that "three-parent IVF" could lead to. David King, Director of the lay Human Genetics Alert organisation, specialising in genetic issues, warned about the "significant risks to the health of the child because [this procedure] involves tampering with the embryo which goes much further than what is done currently […].It crosses the ethical line that has been agreed by governments around the world that we should not genetically alter human beings." This technique, he added, would open the way to "a eugenic designer baby market."     
The British government pointed out that the Churches and the bioethics authorities will be consulted on the different ethical issues raised by this procedure.

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