Health minister: UK could offer GM baby ‘tourism’

A health minister has been heavily criticised for suggesting that overseas patients could be offered controversial procedures to create three and four-parent babies if the techniques are legalised in the UK.

Politicians raised concerns that the Government could be liable for spiralling legal costs if the children born as a result of the procedures have medical problems.

The comments came during a Commons committee evidence session on Maternal Spindle Transfer (MST) and Pro-Nuclear Transfer (PNT) which would create children with three or four parents.


In response to a question about whether the procedures would be made available to overseas citizens, health minister Jane Ellison said: “Over time we might expect that the procedure might be offered by centres to overseas patients.”

“But that would be for individual clinics to assess each case and of course they would all have to work within the regulatory framework, and the clinics would assess the case and prioritise.”

Labour MP Robert Flello said he feared the UK Government would be “liable for legal action by overseas residents for the medical costs, trauma and emotional damage” of children created via the technique.


“What happens in future generations when they decide to sue HM Government for a treatment that turns out to actually cause diseases and cause illnesses because we don’t actually know enough about it?” he posed.

And Lord Alton, a cross-bench peer, said: “Turning the UK into a tourist destination, encouraging and enabling people to break the laws of their own countries, is not something that the UK should do lightly.”

Dr Calum MacKellar, Director of Research of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, opposes the procedure and said the UK Government “should certainly not encourage bioethical tourism”.

GM babies

The MST technique involves replacing the nucleus in a healthy donor egg with the nuclear DNA from the prospective mother – resulting in a baby with DNA from three parents (a chromosomal mother, an egg mother and a sperm father).

PNT creates a child from four different individuals (a chromosomal mother, a chromosomal father, an egg mother and a sperm father).

Later this year, MPs are set to debate whether to legalise the procedures.

If they are introduced, the UK would become the only country in the world to allow them.

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