Eugenics: A Child with Four Biological Parents!*
By David C. Jennings
Coming to a maternity ward near you, babies with the genes of 3 or 4 people! The British government has said it’s full speed ahead for an in-vitro fertilization technique where the DNA of 2 ‘parents’ can be mixed into the donor egg of a third person. A second kind of procedure involves chromosomes from 2 men and 2 women to achieve the same result with more DNA in the mix. The bill is due to be debated in the House of Commons and voted on next year.
The legal excuse is a technique, known as ‘mitochondria replacement therapy’, which can only currently be used for research. Supporters of the procedure claim that it will stop genetic diseases from being passed down between mothers and their children through faulty mitochondria, structures which supply power to cells.
Put simply the faulty mitochondria would be replaced by those from another donor egg. Since these little power cells that spur the multiplication of eggs have their own DNA, it means a 3rd and in some cases 4th DNA’s are being introduced in the final product – a child.
But the far more serious concern is the altering of genetic structure of the babies. Aside from the endless debates about who the legal parents are, punctuated by court cases and interrupted by socially engineering child custody workers; concerns have to be raised that the technique will result in the permanent alteration of the human gene make-up, and any unexpected genetic problems will be passed down to future generations. More worrisome is scientists do not know what the effects will be, yet are prepared to go full steam ahead.
Currently when the two sets of genes come together from both parents one gene is more dominant than the other and wins – with the child taking on that characteristic. It’s not clear what will happen with a third gene set and what characteristics might be affected. We know from intra-family reproduction that genetic weaknesses are enhanced and dominate – it could be that the effect could gradually degrade the gene structure through generations.
Dr David King, director of campaign group Human Genetics Alert, said “It is a disaster that the decision to cross the line that will eventually lead to a eugenic designer baby market should be taken on the basis of an utterly biased and inadequate consultation.”
As Dr King points out this becomes the next fear in the slippery slope. Since the procedure is related to human cloning it is reasonable to believe some will take it beyond the 1 in 10,000 who are currently at risk for passing on the faulty mitochondria condition.
Not seemingly being considered, according to Dr Calum MacKella, is that the procedure likely needs aggressive hormonal treatments resulting in ovarian hyper stimulation. Approximately 5 per cent of In Vitro Fertilisation cycles cause moderate or severe symptoms which may result in disabling strokes or even, in very rare circumstances, the death of the woman.
Protecting the life of the mother is certainly paramount before conception so proper study should be done before anything happens as to the risk factor of killing the mother in the procedure versus the chance of the child dying without any procedure being performed.
Dr. Mackella also writes “Since the genome of future children is being intentionally modified through Maternal Spindle Transfer (3 person version) and Pronuclear Transfer (4 person version), both these procedures could be considered as eugenic practices. These are defined as strategies or decisions aimed at affecting, in a manner which is considered to be positive, the genetic heritage of a child, a community or humanity in general.”
Indeed the concept potentially takes us in the step of Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’. It should be called excessively foolish science since it takes us where no newborn has gone before with consequences that cannot be projected. But the government simply calls it a scientific advance, as Chancellor George Osborne prepares to lighten your wallet to pay for it.