I think the main reason why some people are making a big hoopla over the three person baby gig, is that people don’t quite get the science behind it and it’s freaking them out. There are two methods of creating so-called “three person babies”. One is where the both the donor mother and the ‘real’ mother’s eggs are fertilised, the donor mum’s nucleus is removed and the ‘real’ mum’s nucleus inserted so that the baby has pretty much all of the her genetic material apart from a tiny fraction (the mitochondria). This obviously poses ethical questions for those of us who believe that life begins at conception and that any destruction of life beyond that point is wrong. (Personally, I struggle to have a lot of emotional commitment to a just fertilised egg apart from the ‘slippery slope’ argument).
The second method does not involve destroying a fertilised egg, just fiddling around with the insides a bit, so ethical concerns about destruction of life disappear – unless you’re Catholic and believe that eggs and sperm are still important before they meet.
My main issue isn’t really anything to do with the actual method of conception – the first method which doesn’t involve a fertilised egg sounds like a pretty good idea to me. I’m all for reducing mitochondrial disease in babies. The idea of muddled parenthood because a donor mother has contributed 0.2% of her DNA to a baby is, in my opinion, making a big deal out of a very,very small percentage of genetic material. I’m far more worried about the ethical implications of sperm donation than I am about this. I doubt most of the children who are told that 0.2% of their DNA came from a donor egg are going to have a massive existential crisis at 18.
Other people are worried about the potential safety, and the fact that mitochondria are poorly understood. Scientists claim they are fairly well understood, but scientists are sometimes wrong. *shrugs*. We should be far more worried about the drug industry and some of the poorly understood drugs used- they affect far more people than 3 people babies will. (Read Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre for more info).
What I am having problems grappling with, is this idea that everybody MUST have a baby with their own genetics from their own womb, and that a considerable amount of time and money is being spent on this. I guess it’s very easy for me to say that being young, childless and only occasionally broody. Children are fairly far off into the horizon for me.
However, at a time when the NHS is in crisis (not in ‘crisis’, because it actually IS), I’m not sure IVF treatment issomething that tax payers should be paying for. In an ideal world we would be able to afford it, but at the moment we can’t. Much less, forms of IVF treatment that are probably more expensive and at this stage, quite new. I’m not sure how the NHS is going to approach this, but I sincerely hope that this is not going to be a treatment offered on the NHS.
I understand that not everyone wants to adopt or feels that they have the emotional capacity to do so, but there are so many children who need and want a stable family environment and have the misfortune of not having one, that I wish more people would consider it as an option.
If the government really wants to pass new laws, they should spend time and money reforming the social services we have in this country. There’s a lot wrong going there that could do with some money and research being thrown at it that would benefit children that need stable homes, and make life easier for the parents willing to offer that option to them. That’s my two cents.
What do you guys think?