“3-parent babies’ debated in U.K.”

Britain is weighing the ethics of contentious procedures that allow three parents to create a baby.

An independent regulator that oversees embryo research launched a public consultation Monday to explore the consequences of the procedures, which could prevent women from passing on incurable mitochondrial diseases.

The treatments, which some have dubbed “three-parent IVF,” result in a baby born with DNA from three people — a mother and father, as well as a female donor. That genetic information would be passed down from generation to generation, a prospect that has raised a host of ethical questions.

via CTV News.

Since I first heard about “bioethics” and “bioethical issues”, most of the issues that were once presented as reasons why we should set some limits have now come to be treated as obvious and commonplace.

Nobody is seriously discussing about setting limits on how this technology could or would or should be used. The media treats the entire question as unspeakable – so much so that even raising the question can be taken as proof that a given organization is “fringe”.

I am sure we will set limits at some point – or else limits will be set for us. The question is, will we do it before or after we do great harm?

The new techniques help women with faulty mitochondria, the energy source in a cell, from passing on to their babies’ defects that can result in such diseases as muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, heart problems and mental retardation. About one in 200 children is born every year in Britain with a mitochondrial disorder.

For a woman with faulty mitochondria, scientists take only the healthy genetic material from her egg or embryo. They then transfer that into a donor egg or embryo that still has its healthy mitochondria but has had the rest of its key DNA removed. The fertilized embryo is then transferred into the womb of the mother.

Some groups oppose artificial reproduction techniques and believe the destruction of eggs or embryos to be immoral. British tabloids jumped on the procedure when it was first announced in 2008 and labeled it the creation of a three-parent baby — the mother, the donor and the father — a charge scientists claim is inaccurate because the amount of DNA from the donor egg is insignificant.

“Scientists have developed ground-breaking new procedures which could stop these diseases being passed on,” Britain’s chief medical officer, Dr. Sally Davies, said in a statement on Friday. “It’s only right that we look to introduce this life-saving treatment as soon as we can.”

via Inquirer News.