Baby gene idea breaks too many codes
I note in your article on the creation of babies from the genes of three parents (17 September) that Professor Lisa Jardine, who chairs the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), indicated that the procedure would enter “uncharted territory”.
I very much agree with her since it would (1) create embryos for research (2) modify, with intent, the genome (the sum total of the human genes) of descendants and (3) be eugenic (seeking to genetically improve offspring).
If the HFEA permitted such a procedure it would also be uncharted legal territory since it would single out the UK as a pioneer in contravening the provisions of international law, which exists to protect inherent human dignity.
Thus, it would contravene Article 18 of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, which states that “the creation of human embryos for research purposes is prohibited”.
It would also contravene Article 13 of the same convention, which states that “an intervention seeking to modify the human genome may only be undertaken for preventive, diagnostic or therapeutic purposes and only if its aim is not to introduce any modification in the genome of any descendants”.
Finally, the procedure would contravene Article 3 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which indicated that “in the fields of medicine and biology… the prohibition of eugenic practices, in particular those aiming at the selection of persons”, must be respected.
(Dr) Calum MacKellar
Director of Research
Scottish Council on Human Bioethics
The saddest memories I have as a retired parish minister are of watching parents coping with a child with a terrible genetic disease which would blight or even end its life. As science advanced, a new problem emerged of women who wanted babies discovering they had diseased mitochondria and making the heartbreaking choice to remain childless.
My heart leapt when I read that science will soon be able to swap the mitochondria of such a mother-to-be for healthy ones from an egg donated by another woman.
This will eliminate the disease from future generations of the family and the tiny amount of donated DNA will effectively leave the couple a child which is genetically their own.
My delight at this news is only tempered by the dread that the usual suspects, including my co-religionists, will soon be shrieking about GM or designer babies.
Of course, when pain- killers were first used at birth, Victorian clergy were enraged until the Queen – who had been a beneficiary – let it be known she was seriously unamused.
(Rev Dr) John Cameron
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