‘Public ignored’ as watchdog gives three-parent baby licence

The first licence to create three and four-parent babies has been granted by the fertility watchdog, a move criticised as unethical and disrespectful.

Scientists in Newcastle have been certified by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) as having the “capacity to perform the techniques”.

The methods are highly controversial because the genetic changes will be passed down the generations and the research involves the destruction of human embryos.


The stated aim is to create children free from mitochondrial disease, not to cure people who already have the condition.

Speaking for pro-life charity Life, Mark Bhagwandin said while the group was “deeply sympathetic” to people with such illnesses, “We had hoped that the HFEA would have listened” to those “who have expressed concern about three parent embryos”.

“Instead it has ignored the alarm bells” and proceeded in an unethical way, the group said.

A 2014 Government consultation on the issue revealed more than 60 per cent of people opposed the techniques.

‘Undermining respect’

Bioethicist Dr Anthony McCarthy, from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said: “It comes as little surprise that the HFEA has approved the creation of ‘three-parent’ embryos given their track record of undermining respect for the human embryo”.

McCarthy added that the techniques do not cure mitochondrial diseases and “in no way help those who already have them”.

The HFEA’s Sally Cheshire explained that the “first-stage” licence declared that the Newcastle centre had the capacity to carry out the techniques.

The second stage would see an individual procedure being approved.


Last year, a scientific panel told the HFEA that it believed the procedures should go ahead – despite acknowledging safety concerns.

It was not possible, the panel said, to rule out the risk of faulty mitochondria increasing as the children grew up.

The panel recommended that due to the experimental nature of the technique, patients should be made aware “that there can be no guarantee of safety and efficacy”.

Short debate

MPs voted for the techniques in 2015, although there was criticism that only 90 minutes was given for the debate.

The House of Lords gave its backing for the techniques in the same year, although several Peers spoke out against the proposals, called Maternal Spindle Transfer (MST) and Pro-Nuclear Transfer (PNT).

MST involves replacing the nucleus in a healthy donor egg with the nuclear DNA from the prospective mother, resulting in a child with DNA from three parents.

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

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