Techniques to create three or four-parent babies are potentially dangerous, ethically controversial and untested, a Tory MP has warned.
Writing for Conservative Home, Fiona Bruce MP warned that the techniques – on which the Department of Health last week released draft regulations – are “totally unprecedented” and could have harmful consequences.
The procedures could reportedly eradicate mitochondrial disease by using IVF to create an embryo with biological involvement from either three or four parents.
Mrs Bruce said: “The pro-research lobby is promoting these procedures as cures, but, they’re not cures at all. Rather than eliminate the disease, they make sure only certain kinds of persons come into existence.”
And she said, “the possible benefits of these procedures must be weighed against the ethical consequences of permitting them”.
She explained: “In fact there is a growing body of speculative evidence” which suggests that the techniques “may actually pose risks to the child”.
“Science Magazine ran a piece recently suggesting that these treatments could cause sterility, and lead to reduced growth, impaired learning and exercise capacity and even a slowed metabolism on the basis that we don’t know if the donor mitochondria will be able properly to communicate with its host”, she added.
Mrs Bruce raised concerns about the ethics of creating a child with three or more parents – “Will the child be able to ask questions about or contact their third ancestor?” she asks.
She added, “what is the precise relation of the child to its commissioning parents? The public deserve to know. Yet these are all unanswered questions.”
She also highlights the Council of Europe’s Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine and the World Health Organisation which both explicitly criticise making changes to the human germ line.
“It is truly alarming that Britain is the only country in the world who is on the cusp of permitting these procedures with so little scrutiny, awareness or debate”, she said.
She added: “Permitting these techniques would represent such a fundamental shift in our concept of family that Parliament should be given the opportunity to debate – and resist – them.”
Last week the Department of Health launched a consultation on draft regulations for two controversial techniques: Maternal Spindle Transfer (MST) and Pro-Nuclear Transfer (PNT).
MST involves replacing the nucleus in a healthy donor egg with the nucleus 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).