Polarising “three-parent IVF” could soon be available for Australians under a new government proposal. However, many are challenging the scientific, ethical and social implications of the procedure. Source: Herald Sun.
The proposed law change is aimed at preventing parents passing on genetic conditions to their children.
However, a host of scientific, ethical and social dilemmas are now being evaluated to determine the wider implications of combining genes from two women and altering the nation’s cloning laws.
The federal Government has called on the National Health and Medical Research Council to weigh up the scientific and moral considerations of mitochondrial donation – where DNA from the eggs of two women are combined to remove malfunctioning genes.
If allowed, it is estimated mitochondrial donation would be used in about 60 births a year to prevent diseases that typically see children die between the ages of three and 12.
An expert committee has produced a discussion paper to outline the issue, however NHMRC chief executive officer Anne Kelso said it was now up to ordinary Australians to decide how far they are prepared to allow genetic manipulation of embryos.
“There are clear benefits if it works, but we’ don’t yet know how safe the technology is because there is so little information from around the world. For some other people the technology will present moral challenges,” Professor Kelso said.
After the UK legalised the practice, the Australian Senate last year recommended changing the cloning act and the embryo research act to allow the procedure.
Rather than rule on the highly contentious issue, the Government has asked the NHMRC to undertake expert and community consultations, including a public forum in Melbourne on November 18.
Melbourne’s Catholic Theological College ethicist Fr Kevin McGovern is a member of the expert committee. He said he was “uncomfortable” with the prospect of mitochondrial donations because traditional egg donations were a more simple and certain way for families to have children free of genetic risks.
“This is a dilemma with no simple best way forward,” Fr McGovern said.
“The primary benefit is for the mother who has a child which is genetically her own: the primary risk is to the child, who runs a risk of still being effected by mitochondrial disease.”