United Kingdom is set to approve “three-parent” in vitro fertilization

Feb. 9, 2015

United Kingdom is set to approve “three-parent”
in vitro fertilization

From an article published last week in the New York Times:

“Despite warnings that a new ethical threshold was being crossed, British lawmakers on Tuesday voted to allow the in vitro creation of babies using the DNA of three people, a procedure that could prevent the inheritance of genetic diseases.

The move would make Britain the first country to authorize an in vitro fertilization technique that involves altering a human egg or embryo before transferring it to the womb.

The issue provoked fierce debate, with some opponents likening the procedure to genetic modification and arguing that it would open the way to the creation of so-called designer babies.

Lawmakers in the House of Commons voted 382 to 128 in favor of the move, which still requires final approval from the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber of Parliament. The House of Lords rarely rejects the decisions of its elected colleagues.

The vote came after a number of objections were raised, including the fact that other nations, including the United States, have not taken such a step.

Describing the move as ‘bold’ but ‘considered and informed,’ the health minister, Jane Ellison, argued in favor of legalizing the procedure, which is designed to help women with mitochondrial diseases. Defects in the mitochondria—energy-producing structures outside a cell’s nucleus—can result in a range of complications, including muscular dystrophy and heart, kidney and liver failure.

An opponent of the change, Edward Leigh, a Conservative lawmaker and former minister, said before the vote that it was a “monumental decision.”

‘If we believe that, sadly, given the nature of the human condition, there are these appalling diseases, where do we stop?’ he asked, calling for full clinical trials to determine the procedure’s safety and effectiveness.

‘We will be the first state to authorize this in the world,’ Mr. Leigh added. ‘We will be in a unique position, and we should ask ourselves why no other state—not the European Union, not the U.S., yet—thinks this process is absolutely safe.’

If it wins final approval, as seems likely, the technique is expected to be used only sparingly, and in the cases of women who have faulty mitochondria. The resulting embryo would have nucleus DNA from the child’s parents but mitochondrial DNA from a donor.”

Read the entire New York Times article at the
newspaper’s website