Parliament has passed a law to allow for three-parent babies, which will fundamentally change the creation of human life. And they barely gave it a passing glance.
The amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act allows for mitochondrial donation. This procedure would see mothers with faulty mDNA create a healthy embryo with parts of their embryo, the healthy mDNA of a second mother and the father’s sperm in an effort to avoid certain, rare genetic conditions.
This procedure remains unproven and its full affects unknown. It is patently unethical even to consider permanently and artificially changing the human germ line given the fact that the procedure remains unproven, its safety is yet to be determined, and the long term consequences remain unknown. This is in essence human experimentation.
Despite this politicians legalised the unproven and dangerous procedure without proper consideration. In the Commons they spent a mere 90 minutes debating the issue compared with 90 hours debating fox hunting. It’s obvious where Parliament’s priorities are, and they are not upholding, protecting and valuing human life.
In the Lords they spent less than three hours on the issue and this was only because Lord Deben called a fatal motion which allowed for more time. However five speakers who opposed the amendment and had prepared to speak were refused the opportunity because the peers didn’t want a late night in the chamber.
We are dealing with the very real possibility of new congenital abnormalities, not just in the children created by the procedure but in their descendants and our law makers remained more concerned with getting home to their tea and biscuits than considering the full ramifications of tampering with the creation of human life. This is appalling to say the least.
The Department of Health is still unclear on the science and the techniques have not been proven safe with experiments on animals having had some horrifying results.
For good reason, no other country has allowed genetic modification of human life and some expressly prohibit it. The UK is now flagrantly outside the wise safeguards of international bioethical regulation.
In 2013, 40 leading ethicists from around the world wrote a letter to The Times expressing their concern. They said: “We believe the benefits to a small number of parents are heavily outweighed by the risks to the child and to society…there is a long-standing international consensus that we should not cross this ethical line, since it is likely to lead to a future of genetically modified ‘designer’ babies.”
Up until now we have rightly avoided allowing the genetic engineering of babies. Once the door has been opened to ‘designer’ babies where parents can pick and choose characteristics, eye colour, hair colour, and so on, we can’t go back. And make no mistake that is exactly where we are now headed. What this means in terms of the survival of the human race not to mention the reflection of the value we place on a human being is hugely concerning.
And then there is the issue of identity for the child created through this procedure. Unlike egg and sperm donation, which doesn’t allow for anonymity, mitochondrial donation will see the second mother remain anonymous, even though she is another parent. Every child has the right to know the identity of their parents. This right won’t be afforded to children created by mitochondrial donation.
Despite the negative implications for human life. Despite serious concerns being raised by many ethicists and scientists. Despite no other country allowing this procedure. And despite our own Department of Health being unclear on the science, we can now artificially modify human life with no real understanding of the consequences. And our politicians didn’t even have the decency to debate the issue properly.
It’s disappointing and downright scary that due to the poor quality of our Parliament we must now deal with an uncertain future when it comes to human life. We entrust our politicians with the responsibility of seriously and thoughtfully considering the ramifications of the laws they pass not just on us but on future generations. On three-parent babies they have utterly failed us.