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MPs back “three-
despite safety and ethical concerns
On 3rd February 2015 MPs voted 382-
An explanation of the process, with diagrams, was included in the November issue of image news. i
Concern from the Church
The Anglican and Catholic churches and the Free Church of Scotland had all warned that it would be irresponsible for MPs to pass these new laws. Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, which funds research on this procedure, had responded, “It is remarkable that the Church has pronounced that there has been insufficient scientific study without first asking the scientists who lead this research.” i
But is not only the church which questions the wisdom of pressing ahead. Fiona Bruce MP laid a motion, which was rejected, opposing the approval of the regulations for several reasons:
In September 2014, an article in New Scientist warned, “Now it appears that we may have seriously underestimated the influence that mitochondria have. Recent research suggests that they play a key role in some of the most important features of human life. This raises the ethically troubling prospect – once widely dismissed, including by this publication, -
Dr Trevor Stammers, Programme Director in Bioethics and Medical Law at St Mary’s University in London, said: “We do not yet know the interaction between the mitochondria and nuclear DNA. To say that it is the same as changing a battery is facile. It’s an extremely complex thing.” i
Dr Peter Saunders, Chief Executive of Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) has outlined the five big questions MPs failed to answer and makes the point that, “The research scientists involved have huge financial, ideological and research-
It must be tempting for politicians to make promises of ‘miracle cures’ in years to come which no one may remember. But I suspect it is much more about media hype than real hope.
This new push is being driven as much by prestige for government, research grants for scientists and profits for biotechnology company shareholders as anything else.” i
It is not only UK academics who have grave misgivings. The Center for Genetics and Society (CGS) in Berkeley, California expressed concern in an open letter to UK MPs. This was signed by 53 prominent scholars, scientists and advocates. i The letter maintains that, “there has been much misinformation about the safety and efficacy of these techniques, and about what is at stake.” It then outlines, “five critical facts of which you may not be aware.” The letter concludes by urging that the regulations, which are, “chipping away at what has been a long-
Following the commons vote, in a letter to the Times, fifty-
Selective reading of the evidence?
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) had said, “We’ve found that there is broad support for permitting mitochondria replacement,” i but a ComRes poll in late January revealed that only 10 per cent of the public think the Government are right to push the regulations through parliament. i In September last year Fiona Bruce MP quoted an earlier ComRes poll which found, “a limited number—only 18%—of the public are in favour of the proposals.” i In the Department of Health’s own consultation a majority (62%) oppose the plans. i
In an article in Nature, Marcy Darnovsky, Executive Director of CGS also questions the HFEA’s claims that 1 in 200 children is born each year with a form of mitochondrial disease (and the media’s uncritical acceptance of this figure), pointing out that the number is “more like 1 in 5,000” (R. H. Haas et al. Pediatrics 120;1326–1333; 2007). i
She concludes, “The question raised by these proposals is whether a risky technique, which would at best benefit a small number of women, justifies shredding a global agreement with profound significance for the human future.”
Two articles on this topic by Dr Trevor Stammers may be read at http://blogs.tiu.edu/bioethics/2015/03/01/fools-
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