BioethicsFri Jun 8, 2012 - 4:21 pm EST
UK Prime Minister backs controversial ‘3-parent’ IVF technique
United Kingdom, June 8, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) — British Prime Minister David Cameron is reportedly supporting a controversial new IVF procedure for genetically modifying children, according to the Daily Mail. The technique is intended to prevent incurable hereditary diseases, such as muscular dystrophy, but it will result in “hybrid” children who would possess genetic material from three or more biological “parents.”
The procedure involves removing the nucleus from a zygote with flawed mitochondria, and inserting it into a healthy, donated egg. The resulting embryo would possess genetic material from the mother and father, as well as the donor.
Mr. Cameron has reportedly encouraged Health Department officials in testing the procedure, but the ethical debate over the procedure remains fierce.
“It is an attempt to genetically modify the human species,” declared Countess Josephine Quintavalle, founder of pro-life group Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE). Quintavalle cautioned strongly against the procedure, stating that the abnormal embryo resulting from the procedure would be “passing on these changes to future generations, with who knows what awful consequences.”
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When news of the technique first broke in 2010, it was swiftly condemned by pro-life groups concerned that it was one step further down the path of the “commodification” of children. They also observed that the research requires creating, and then killing numerous embryos.
“Scientists should stop killing and abusing human beings in experiments,” said Anthony Ozimic, the communications manager for the UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) at the time, adding that they should “pursue ethical alternatives which are much more likely to be successful in the long-term.”
The British government will hold a public consultation on whether to allow the procedure within the next few weeks. Genetic manipulation of embryos — except in research — has officially been banned by the 2008 Human Fertilization and Embryology Act. However, the Health Secretary is permitted to condone new techniques, if there is a strong case for it.
Mutation of the human DNA can cause around 50 untreatable diseases, affecting one in 5,000 births; advocates claim that using the technique could save 100 lives/year. The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the Government’s fertility monitor, has declared the technique to be safe, although there shall still be more tests.
“We are as anxious as anybody to see cures for the many serious conditions related to mitochondrial defects,” stated Quintavalle, “but what is being proposed is not a cure either for the individual patient or the diseases themselves. It is an attempt to genetically modify the human species.”