World – Churches opposed to babies from three people
LONDON –– Senior church figures have called on the British government to block the creation of babies from three people.
The Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales said it was not clear the technique –– adding a donor woman’s mitochondria to another woman’s egg –– was safe or ethical.
But a group of scientists has urged MPs to approve the procedure –– intended to stop deadly mitochondrial diseases.
Ministers want to allow the technique and MPs will debate it on Tuesday.
Mitochondria are tiny compartments found within cells within the body, and their most crucial role is to convert energy locked in food into energy the cell can use.
About one in every 6,500 babies is born with mitochondrial disease, which can be fatal.
Mitochondria are passed to a child from the mother, and the proposed technique involves adding healthy mitochondria from a donor woman to an egg from another, then fertilizing it with one man’s sperm.
The Reverend Brendan McCarthy, Church of England adviser on medical ethics, said: “We need to be absolutely clear that the techniques that will be used will be safe, and we need to be absolutely sure that they will work.”
He also said the ethics of the issue should be properly discussed before a decision was made, adding: “What’s the rush?”
The Right Reverend John Sherrington, a Roman Catholic bishop, said many people were “rightly concerned” about the proposal.
“No other country has allowed this procedure and the international scientific community is not convinced that the procedure is safe and effective,” he said.
“There are also serious ethical objections to this procedure, which involves the destruction of human embryos as part of the process.”
But in a letter to the Guardian, 40 scientists from 14 countries said the technique offered “some affected families the opportunity to have healthy children”.
They said Britain had run an “exemplary and internationally admired process” to consider the issue since 2007, and they called on Parliament to approve the proposed change.
“The UK hosts a world-class team at Newcastle University developing this technology, which is ideally placed to be among the first to treat patients,” they added.
The House of Commons debate on Tuesday is on a proposed alteration to the the Human Fertilisation And Embryology Act 1990, to “enable mitochondrial donation”.