UK House of Commons Approves Creation of "Three Parent" Babies
Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The House of Commons has passed draft legislation that will make the United Kingdom (UK) the first country to permit "three parent" babies. MPs voted 382 to 128 in support of The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Mitochondrial Donation) Regulations 2015 from the Department of Health that will permit mitochondrial DNA transfer. The treatment combines the genetic material from the eggs of two women with the sperm of a man to produce an IVF embryo that has DNA from three individuals. The Regulations would permit two techniques: Maternal Spindle Transfer, which modifies the mother's egg pre-fertilization and Pro Nuclear Transfer, which modifies an existing embryo in attempts to prevent the transfer of mitochondrial disease from mother to child.


MPs approved the Regulations despite serious safety, ethical and legal concerns with the untested practice. Not only will mitochondrial donation open the door to the eugenics of "designer children" with the favoring of certain traits over others, it shows no dignity for the preborn child, who is created and destroyed at will. The practice itself is untested. Fiona Bruce MP asked, "Where will it lead? The answer has to be that we stop here. The answer has to be that we say this is a red line in our country, as in every other country in the world, that we will not cross."


Robert Flello MP also voiced concern, "The Human Fertilisation and Embryology authority (HFEA) themselves acknowledge that in approving this there is a significant chance of mutant DNA being created.


CARE for Europe expressed opposition and deep concern stating, " is interrupting and recreating complex biological relationships at the very base of our humanity.  It has been forbidden largely because of the permanent alteration of the germline which would result - thereby performing eugenics, a fundamental change for the children and grandchildren, and beyond." 


The proposed Regulations go against international law. 46 Members of the European Parliament sent an open letter to UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt opposing the proposal, warning that it would violate an EU ban on the use of germline manipulation in clinical trials, and expressing deep concern for the impact of the techniques. Dr Miroslav Mikolasik, Chair of the European Parliament Bioethical Working Group, warned in the letter, "We strongly believe this medical technique which is being developed to help small number of women affected by rare genetic disease would negatively affect all of humanity by establishing precedent for cloning and thus alteration of human species and destruction of our shared human heritage."


The proposal awaits consideration in the House of Lords on February 23rd.


Meanwhile, meetings are underway in the United States by a committee tasked to address the question of mitochondrial DNA transfer and issue a consensus study on the ethical and social policy issues surrounding the technique. The first meeting was held on January 27th, with a second scheduled for March with a 2-day public workshop and a closed committee session. A public comment session is planned for the third committee meeting in May 2015 to be followed by two closed committee meetings during which the committee will draft and finalize the report.