Three-Person IVF – Why I’m not sold on the idea

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am probably the least maternal woman you will ever meet and I have zero desire to have children at this stage of my life.  The chances are that if I ever do have a baby, I will be part of the ‘over 40’ age group of mothers that are in a ‘high risk’ zone of having an embryo with some kind of genetic defect.

Already in my 30’s, the idea of the second half of my life being dedicated to a healthy baby scares me enough, but to have to raise a child with a disability in my 40’s, 50’s and 60’s seems like something I would not mentally or physically be able to do, let alone want to.

Like many people this morning, I turned on the news to an incredibly controversial headline; ‘Three Person IVF’.  Before they explained, it instantly popped into my head that this must be to help gay couples or strange three-way relationships to have a baby that is equally genetic to all involved.  But as they continued with the news piece, it was explained that it was in fact a process that helped people that carried the unhealthy mitochondrial gene have healthy children.

Every body has mitochondrial, all they are are tiny compartments that are found inside nearly every cell of the body.  Their function is to convert food into energy, but when they are defective they lead to brain damage,heart failure, muscle wasting and blindness.

The basics are this.  The process would combine the DNA of the mother and father with healthy mitochondrial from a third party donor woman, resulting in a baby that would not contract the diseased cells from the mother.

As the nucleus of an ovary is the part that contains all the baby making bits and the unhealthy mitochondria are only found in the surrounding cells of the ovum, by removing the mothers nucleus and implanting it into a donor ovum (whose own nucleus would be removed) you theoretically make a healthy egg containing the mothers DNA.

Of course, religious bodies are against this technique and there is a lot of unrest within Catholic and Anglican churches as they see this as destruction of an embryo and deem it unethical.

Scientists are divided on this also as some see it is unsafe and immoral, with this process opening doors to people having ‘designer babies’.  Where do you draw the line?  Others see it as a natural scientific progression in human evolution to find a way to eradicate genetic diseases.

From what I have heard and read today, I can see both sides of the argument, however something sits funny with me when I think about it.  It’s the Jurassic Park line ‘Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should’.  Has anyone thought about how confusing this could be to the child?  Adoption, IVF and donor sperm/eggs already causes some children to grow up feeling isolated and different.  Try explaining that technically, they have three parents and see how it mentally affects them, something we can’t possibly predict.

There’s also the more touchy opinion that if you have a genetic disease, maybe you weren’t meant to have children and should just adopt one of the millions of children that are already born and are in desperate need of families to take them in.

One woman texted into the BBC and said that the world is already trying to deal with overpopulation so should we really be helping people that otherwise wouldn’t be parents to have children?  Like I said, I’m not maternal at all, but even I can see how that argument just won’t cut it to someone that wants nothing more than to have their own baby.

I have never been against IVF however helping two people conceive seems very different to splicing together cells and DNA from three people and I can’t help but wonder what will this do to future generations and the kids of the 3-person kids we make today.  And donor eggs and sperm still only contain the DNA of two willing and consenting donors, so in affect the baby is still made the ‘old skool’ way. One sperm, one egg, 2 peoples DNA.

Can scientists guarantee that future generations will not suffer from our ignorance and our rush to do it just because we can, sped along by the sad stories of people that have lost babies to this horrible disease?

The problem with genetics and evolution is you can’t say 100% until it’s too late.

I am in no way religious; I would put myself in the atheist circle of thought, however I do find my moral compass agreeing with some of the religious opinions.  If more peoples morals are compromised by this than the people it will help, should it not be done?

I can’t settle on a side at the moment, however I am strongly leaning towards the ‘No’ vote on this.   I am nothing if not open minded though, so would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this very controversial matter.

Information sourced from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-31069173

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