31 Mar Ethics and the Three Person Baby
by Erin Weist
About 2 weeks ago, BBC News produced an article titled, “Three-person baby license granted,” reporting about a fertility group in Newcastle that has worked to create a procedure that is intended to overcome a specific genetic defect. A noble goal, to be sure. In fact, who could say no to a procedure that would prevent children dying from a genetic disease?
The problem comes in the ethics of it. The technique uses a donor’s egg, the mother’s egg and the father’s sperm. As the article states, “The resulting child has a tiny amount of its DNA from the donor, but the procedure is legal and reviews say it is ethical and scientifically ready.”
These children will be born with DNA from, not 2 people, a man & a woman, but 3 people. This technique has been labelled as “controversial” by both media and governments alike, the UK being the first place to have approved the method. A baby boy was born in April 2016, the first known birth coming from 3 people. As the New York-based doctor mentions in the article, they performed the procedure in Mexico because “there are no rules” there, thus no ethics boards to stop them.
Many reproductive specialists are thrilled at the prospect of the birth and, one can assume, the licensing now allowed in one country, but other scientists were less than convinced at the outcome last year, expressing that they “were uneasy with how Zhang’s team reported the development and the fact that it took place in an environment of potentially minimal oversight.” Others reported they believed that the research itself was “unethical, unwise, immoral.”
So what is the answer? More oversight? Or more ethics? Tough questions, but another serious one to consider is this: what might the implications be for a 3-person baby? Because of the nature of the technique this is probably a misnomer. But, as has been proven again & again, opening the door to changes in reproduction, sexual activity, marriage, gender and other roles in our society has quite frankly led to chaos. An almost total breakdown of roles and framework of the family in our society with children paying the biggest price.
This might be just a fantastic scientific breakthrough, it’s true. But it’s quite possible it will have unforeseen consequences in the fabric of society. It couldn’t hurt for further countries to show some prudence, some caution, when investigating the wisdom and ethical nature of this and similar operations. Please, stay informed regarding what is going on in your own country, talk to your leaders about your concerns, write letters to those making decisions and encourage your neighbors to do the same. If we don’t speak up we can’t complain when other people speak up for us.