Saturday, January 28, 2012

Concerns raised in Britain over 'three parent test tube baby' experiments

News that babies with three biological parents could be a reality within three years using a new IVF technique, have been described as 'unethical' and 'macabre' by Catholic scientists and pro-life campaigners in Britain.  

The Wellcome Trust and Newcastle University have just announced a €7m package for further lab-based research aimed at assessing the safety of an experimental technique, which involves transferring parents’ DNA into a donor egg, meaning the resulting child would inherit a tiny fraction of their genetic coding from a third party. 

They say it could prevent genetic conditions affecting the heart, muscle or brain being passed on to children and future generations.  

The UK’s Department of Health has ordered a public consultation on whether the technology should be moved from the lab to patients, which will be followed by a House of Commons debate in London on the ethics of the issue.

Anthony Ozimic, communications manager with the Society for the Unborn Child, commented, "These macabre experiments are both destructive and dangerous and therefore unethical. The vast majority of embryonic children created in the laboratory are killed because they do not meet the 'quality control' requirements dictated by scientists involved in such increasingly macabre experiments.”

“Scientists should abandon the spurious field of destructive embryo experimentation and instead promote the ethical alternative of adult stem cell research, which is already providing cures and treatments for the same conditions,” concluded Mr Ozimic.

John Smeaton, SPUC director, commented, “As with IVF and cloning, this mitochondrial technique may well lead to the developmental abnormalities. Creating embryonic children in the laboratory abuses them, by subjecting them to unnatural processes. Human life begins at conception. Any grounds for denying human rights to human embryos are arbitrary and self-serving.  Scientists should respect human life and pursue ethical alternatives which are much more likely to be successful in the long term,” he concluded.

Helen Watt, a senior research director at the Anscombe Centre for Bioethics in Oxford, a Catholic academic institute, told Channel 4 News that both the techniques being assessed by the HFEA involve "very serious ethical problems.”  

Regarding pronuclear transfer, she said, "This grossly disrespects human life, and any child born from this particular technique will sadly discover she has no genetic parents - not three parents, as is sometimes reported. Instead, she is formed from the bodies of two embryos created and killed precisely as 'building blocks' for hers. We are very far here from the unconditional welcome of new life which having a baby should involve."

She added, "Even with the second, less destructive method, maternal spindle transfer, where nuclear material is exchanged before fertilisation, the child will face the unknown physical risks of the procedure in addition to the identity problems of knowing she that has, in this case, three genetic parents. For couples who, understandably, do not want to take the risk of passing on mitochondrial disorders to their children, adoption is a far better solution."