We addressed the topic of children with three biological parents in another post back in April. At that time, a story in the mainstream media reported that researchers had applied to the FDA for permission to begin using a
provocative new fertilization technique that could eventually create babies from the DNA of three people, with the goal of preventing mothers from passing on debilitating genetic diseases to their children. … [emphasis added to quotes]
To accomplish this, researchers would remove the nucleus DNA from a healthy female donor’s eggs and replace it with the nucleus DNA of the prospective mother. After fertilization, the resulting child would inherit the mother’s nucleus DNA — which contains most inherited traits like eye color and height — but the donor’s healthy mitochondrial DNA.
The story didn’t mention that a similar technique, cytoplasmic transfer, has already been used to create children with three parents:
A private fertility clinic in the United States has launched an investigation into the health of 17 teenagers who were born as a result of a controversial IVF technique that produced the world’s first “three-parent” embryos more than 15 years ago. …
The technique – which the US government halted in 2002 – involved mixing the eggs of two women so that the resulting IVF babies inherited genetic material from three individuals in a similar process to that planned in Britain for women carrying maternally inherited mitochondrial disorders.
About 30 IVF babies worldwide are believed to have been born by the technique, known as “cytoplasmic transfer”, including 17 infants at the Saint Barnabas Medical Centre in New Jersey who, until now, have not been checked for any long-term health problems resulting from the technique.
The health of these children is finally being investigated, yet the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science (IRMS) at St Barnabas in New Jersey would not answer questions about the results when asked by reporters.
The British government is particularly interested in the outcome, because their Parliament is also considering whether or not to approve nuclear DNA transfer techniques in that country.
sent warning letters to six fertility centers threatening “enforcement action,” and asserting its regulatory power over “therapy involving the transfer of genetic material by means other than the union of [sperm and egg.]”
[Embryologist Jacques] Cohen’s clinic at St. Barnabas chose to stop performing cytoplasmic transfer.
Researchers are right to be concerned about the health of these “experimental” children:
… The embryologists reported that they had endowed the children with extra bits of a special type of genetic material, known as mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA, which came with the cytoplasm transferred from the donor eggs to the patient’s.
That meant the resulting children had three genetic parents: mother, father, and mtDNA donor. It also meant that female children would transmit their unorthodox combination of mitochondrial DNA to their own offspring (mtDNA is passed down only through eggs), with unknown implications. …
New Jersey researchers reported that one of the children conceived through cytoplasmic transfer has been diagnosed with “pervasive developmental disorder,” a catch-all term for symptoms that range from mild delays in speech to autism….
But geneticists have only begun to trace the connections between mtDNA and a host of diseases ranging from strange metabolic ailments to diabetes and Lou Gehrig’s disease, and some experts argued that the child’s disorder may well be caused by a mismatch between the donor and mother’s mtDNA.
As Jim Cummins, a molecular biologist at Murdoch University in Western Australia, put it: “To deliberately create individuals with multiple mitochondrial genotypes without knowing the consequences is really a step into the dark.”
Where are common sense and ethics? They felt no qualms about playing God?
Obviously science moves too fast for government regulators and U.S. law. Now these innocent children (and perhaps even their descendants, if they have any) will pay the price for the arrogance of these scientists.
Currently the FDA asserts its authority over such research on the grounds that the children are a “product“. How dehumanizing. What a slippery slope.
Other scientific endeavors are moving far too fast for our representatives in Congress to keep up with: computer technology (the Internet, NSA spying), robotics (drones and killing machines), genetically modified plants and animals turned loose in the environment. These are only a few examples.
The religious, philosophical, and ethical implications of bio-engineered human beings are mind boggling. What do religious thinkers have to say about children with three biological parents? Catholic doctrine is clear:
Catholic teaching prohibits in vitro fertilization, maintaining that a child has the right to be conceived in the marital embrace of his parents. Human sexuality has two components, the unitive and procreative; IVF separates these components and makes the procreative its only goal. Pope Paul VI said that there is an “inseparable connection, willed by God, and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning.”
There are other issues involved. IVF makes the child a commodity produced in a laboratory, and makes doctors, technicians, and even business people part of the conception process. The sperm used is usually obtained by masturbation, which the Church teaches is immoral. The sperm or eggs used may not come from the couple desiring the child; because one of the spouses may be infertile, it may be necessary to use the sperm or eggs from an outsider. Most of the embryos conceived—which the Church holds should be respected new human lives—die, are frozen indefinitely for later implantation, are used for research, or are discarded. Children conceived through IVF also have a greater incidence of birth defects.
The bottom line is that the Church views the child as a gift from God, not a right.
In a 2005 movie, The Island, one character, an employee of a corporation that produces clones as a product to be harvested for body parts, informs the clones that they aren’t “human”. He also explains that they “have no souls.”
The future is now.
O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.