Published: 17th September 2012
CMF has responded with both concern and scepticism to the promises that scientists at Newcastle University want to help parents have children who are free from mitochondrial diseases.
The technique that scientists want to develop could be used, it is claimed, to prevent debilitating and fatal mitochondrial diseases, which are passed down from mother to child. The technique is banned from use in almost every other Western country because it manipulates embryos and all changes, harmful or not, will be passed down the generations.
This research is unnecessary, unethical and overhyped.
1. There are already solutions available for the very small number of couples who find themselves in the tragic position of carrying genes for mitochondrial disease, including adoption and egg donation (although we have serious ethical reservations about the latter).
2. Scientists have brushed under the carpet the fact that thousands of eggs will need to be harvested to generate embryos for ethically dubious research, an invasive and frequently painful procedure which involves real health risks for women donors. Where will these eggs come from? Vulnerable women needing income? Students? Women abroad?
Moreover, headlines along the lines of 'three-parent babies' might not appeal to scientists but they are biologically accurate. We may not know exactly how mitochondrial DNA will be associated with a person's identity but we do know there will be three adults with whom the baby shares a genetic connection, that will be passed down the generations.
3. The Newcastle scientists have huge financial and research-based vested interests' and need to sell their case to funders and decision-makers. Dr Peter Saunders, Chief Executive of CMF, said:
'I have a great sense of déjà vu here. There is always in this country huge media hype about supposed breakthroughs in biotechnology …But we have been here before with human reproductive cloning (the Korean debacle), so-called therapeutic cloning for embryonic stem cell research (which has thus far failed to deliver) and animal hybrids (now a farcical footnote in history) …So I'm not letting myself be carried away by the hype and spin. And I'm not holding my breath about the promises of therapies.
The Newcastle unit is a world leader in promising much and delivering little.'
Dr Peter Saunders (CMF Chief Executive) 020 7234 9660
Philippa Taylor (CMF Head of Public Policy) 020 7234 9664
John Martin (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9665
Alistair Thompson on 020 3008 8145 or 07970 162 225
Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 4,000 British doctor members in all branches of medicine. A registered charity, it is linked to about 65 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.
CMF exists to unite Christian doctors to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.