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Three-parent embryo technique is ‘unethical and macabre’, says pro-life group

By on Friday, 28 June 2013

An embryo is analysed at a fertility centre in Glasgow (Photo: PA)

An embryo is analysed at a fertility centre in Glasgow (Photo: PA)

A pro-life group has condemned plans to create offspring with three genetic parents as “unethical and macabre”.

Britain could become the first country to approve the “three-parent” embryo technique, it emerged today. The Government is drafting regulations to be debated in Parliament next year.

Anthony Ozimic, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), said: “These macabre experiments are both destructive and dangerous and therefore unethical. The vast majority of embryonic children created in the laboratory are killed because they do not meet the ‘quality control’ requirements dictated by scientists involved in such increasingly macabre experiments.

Scientists have already created foetuses with genetic material from three parents. Doctors in Britain want to use the technique to prevent the passing on of mitochondrial diseases. These diseases can result in serious conditions such as muscular dystrophy.

SPUC director John Smeaton said: “Human life begins at conception. Any grounds for denying human rights to human embryos are arbitrary and self-serving.

“Scientists should respect human life and pursue ethical alternatives which are much more likely to be successful in the long term.”

The technique used involves the transfer of nuclear material from the egg cell of a mother suffering with a mitochondrial disease to the egg of the unaffected donor mother. The healthy mitochondria cells created are then transferred to the IVF baby.

Scientists stressed only 0.1 per cent of the baby’s DNA will come from the donor mother.

  • paulinator

    And the nucleus from the healthy donor egg is destroyed thus destroying that life…

  • Kevin

    “Scientists stressed only 0.1 per cent of the baby’s DNA will come from the donor mother”

    And that point needs stressing because…?

    Also, we should not write that “scientists said X and Y” on such a subject. We should write something like, “scientists involved in this programme said”. Because Catholic scientists, for example, would want nothing to do with it.

    Good comments from SPUC.

  • Hermit Crab

    The word “scientist” has, in our time, become equivalent to the words “complete and utterly idiotic satanist”.

  • $20596475

    Predictable knee jerk reactions. This work is only now beginning to be discussed and we can be certain that the ethical dilemmas involved will be thoroughly exposed and debated.

    My initial understanding is that this particular disease causes many miscarriages, which this treatment will stop. Surely we need to keep things in balance, or are miscarriages acceptable?

  • a name for the form

    Yes, naturally occurring miscarriages are “acceptable”, in the same way that there is nothing immoral or dishonorable about dying from cancer or being struck by lightning. It’s sad, but there’s no way of stopping them from happening, and they are morally neutral.

    But it’s certainly not acceptable that embryos and fetuses are conceived often only to be discarded in countless numbers so that consumerist parents can “design” their babies.

    Arguing that this procedure is good because it will reduce the number of miscarriages is like arguing that killing smokers for research is good because it will reduce lung cancer.

  • Kevin

    Predictable knee-jerk approval.

  • $20596475

    When have I expressed approval? I simply raise questions.

  • $20596475

    I thought you believe that a “soul” is created at the moment of conception. Surely then to avoid a miscarriage is important.

    This has nothing at all to do with “consumerist parents”. It is about overcoming the effects of a particular disease.

  • Acleron

    Embryos and foetuses are already discarded wholesale by natural process. This technique will not only allow this mother to give birth without the risk from this particular defect but will allow all in her matrilinear line to do likewise. Majorcalamity raises a good point, just what is the ethical problem with this?

  • Mark

    While I in no way agree with this Frankenstinien crap-shoot, strictly speaking the destruction of an unfertilised in not the destruction of a life, a potential life possibly but the egg would need to be fertilised for a life – embryo – to be destroyed.
    We have to get our facts right to oppose this grisly trade or we risk a dread ability gap.

  • paulpriest

    This is utterly absurd….IVF is not merely intrinsically morally disordered in separating the unitive & procreative act – it is intrinsically evil in the embryonic russian roullette, its being wrought by experimental genocide and in the subsequent freezing and destruction of human life…
    The ethics of any other issue merely compund the depravity.
    Any implication that there is anything acceptable in IVF is gravely scandalous.

  • Sel Feena

    …Really? Such witless, snide remarks reflect poorly on us and make us look like backward idiots. Is it too much too ask that we Catholics remain civil whilst opposing this?

  • Hermit Crab

    You are right!

  • NatOns

    This reflection on the state of science and its intrusion into human life for eugenic reasons is no new thing – I have no doubt the CH’s William Oddie could write a book on Chesterton’s deft exposition on Eugenics .. and with greater facility than I ever could. Yet this three-into-one confabulation, for the very best possible human reasons, strikes me as an apt vehicle for rather deeper theological reasoning in moral aspects of anthropology .. not so much the indivisible Holy Trinity but generally on human society. It is, specifically, Pope Francis’ (media reported) ecclesiology that forces itself on my thoughts, not least the character of the Catholic Church’s household management (oecumenical efforts not least).

    I make no pretension that the Holy Father has any need of me to teach him how to suck eggs, nor even that he takes the time to read answers to articles in the Catholic Herald. Nonetheless, what seems to pass currently for oikumene between very different – and antagonistic – views of the one, holy, catholic church .. Christ’s body, that is: Jesus in Person .. is, I suggest, simply the digging out, injecting in, and remaking of One who needs no such imaginative eugenic reshaping from man (even with all our diseases, handicaps, and mortality as His members, corporately). The household that we might – theoretically – have shared once again with Lutherans and Anglicans can bear no resemblance to the household management that we do – actually – share still (if fractiously) with New Rome and Third Rome AKA our Sacred Tradition or the Living Faith; with Anglicanism there is now a sacred (sort of, maybe) tradition found in appearances only (if that) – for as with the broad stream of Lutherans, this communion has skipped off merrily to play with that devouring lion slavering at our door .. yet no one can doubt the devotion of the other two Romes to Sacred Tradition, even if all must honestly look askance at their abiding love affair with worldly, imperial, civic rule (and the history of woeful synodical mayhem attached).

    “I refer for example to the reflection of the Catholic Church on the meaning of episcopal collegiality, and the tradition of synodality, so typical of the Orthodox Churches.” Pope Francis to the Delegation from the Patriarch of Constantinople.

    I cannot believe anyone ever imagining that the Oecumenical Patriarch or the Patriarch of Moscow would allow his charges to conflate Christ’s Triumph with vain triumphalism, his own blessed enthronement with a mere political inauguration, or of seeking to hide this divinely gifted rule over a sovereign priesthood as if not humbled by the call! Clearly we do have much to learn from New Rome and Third Rome – but not what many in the West seem to imagine; I can’t help wondering if Pope Francis means this in his excellent outreach to the delegation from the Oecumenical Patriarch. Synods, for example, wedded inextricably to Sacred Tradition not inventing their bright ideas on improving worldly comforts or or applying the latest management technique buzz words to evangelism; Christ undimmed in triumphal glory, not a hybrid replacement of manufactured eugenic brilliance.

  • Irenaeus of New York

    This is just pure evil. In the USA, anonymous donors allow a woman to have a child without a man. The law and process prevents the child from ever knowing who his biological father is. Now I suppose genetically they will no longer even be able to have a biological father with this new procedure. It is sinister to willfully deny a child real parents.

  • Paul

    If you read the version on the BBC it mentions two versions of the procedure one which is as Pablo mentions with a fertilised egg and another without as you indicate, where the original unfertilised egg has the donor mitochondria injected and then it is fertilised.

  • Irenaeus of New York

    The Catholic Church has been way ahead of the Eastern Orthodox on the evils of eugenics. Even today there is no agreement among the EO Churches on contraception, abortion and eugenics. And as such you have no common witness to these evils as a true church should. So your claim that the West can learn from 2nd Rome and 3rd Rome is patently false. Catholics will stick with 1st Rome and the Vicar of Christ.

  • BTyler

    Interesting how many people strongly oppose GM food, yet are silent on this.

  • Chris

    Amen! It is evil. Love is suppose to produce children. Where’s the love in this?

  • bluesuede

    It is creating an avenue to make designer babies., “Why the UK should reject three-parent embryos”, article by Peter Saunders

  • NatOns

    Hmm? Yes, I guess I can understand your stance on the falsity of eugenics (and the vain reverence the East still pays to mere political masters). Yet that we cannot also learn from our divided family – if only in their mistakes – well, that strikes me as odd .. and irrational. So far as I understand the Holy Father .. and I do have a bit of a struggle here with regard the Anglican communion and the Lutheran groups .. his point seems to be that of reflecting on what the Lord has blessed in New and Third Rome – e.g. a synodical system that is inextricably bound to Sacred Tradition (even if many of its synods do kow-tow to a sense of imperial orthodoxy rather than fidelity to the Petrine witness)!

  • Irenaeus of New York

    There is a reason that the Orthodox have been locked into their geographic and ethnic ghettos for centuries while the Catholic Church has evangelized throughout the world. An overemphasis on synodality at the expense of primatial structures is not a strength. It is a recipe for disaster.

  • Julian Lord

    Yes, THIS is the issue …

  • NatOns

    Well .. again, yes, I believe I understand your basic stance – and accept it is true. One needs only look at the synodality of the Anglican communion(s) to see the flesh dominating (in fact, all too often excluding) the Spirit. And this ones sees in the national/ supra-national petty councils of the Catholic Church .. in US America, England and Wales, and not to leave out Germany – not one of them producing a single spark truly worthy of the Holy Ghost Who enflames our hearts.

    Yet the basis of synods – national, mixed, and even oecumenical – ought to have a firmer place in the life of the Catholic Church in the West that it allows to itself. Their place, as plenary assemblies, is to affirm the Living Faith not to replace, amend or substitute it locally – and with solely an ordinary use of the infallible source of Christian doctrine: Christ. Much good has been done at such convocations staying within their proper limits – Carthage, Hippo etc .. if they follow the example of the Plenary Council and do not seek to make themselves a rival to Jesus Christ in His body, the Catholic Church, or oppose the Rock’s choice of rock: Peter.

    “Under no circumstances may such a synod define any new article of faith or decide any doctrinal point in dispute between Catholic theologians or frame statutes contrary to the common canon law of the Church.” William Fanning, Synod, Catholic Encyclopaedia.

  • Name

    A Clockwork Orange in the making.

  • FairPlay

    The love comes from the desperate wish to have your own children, and to have the experience of passing on your own genes that most of us take for granted. This does not change the genes of the nucleus in any way, and it most certainly does not remove the need for a father. It allows couples to have a family, and shows that the scientific community has the compassion to see how important that is for people. Someone with faulty mitochondria can be helped in the same way that someone with faulty kidneys can be helped with a transplant. Changing faulty mitochondria is like changing faulty batteries. I do wish people would take time to understand the science before they make such knee-jerk reactions.

  • Chris

    Well I understand the good will part part of this and I do understand the science. Your post seems to insinuate a lack of knowledge is the reason “people” don’t see your view. No I think this is Evil because it denies the resultant children a mother and father. It allows for single parents. But most of all you speak as if this is full proof method to bypass disease instead of by passing one problem and possibly creating another. Do you know if this resultant children would be at risk for say lymphoma or like children of thalidomide whose offspring get cancer? Again it’s evil!

  • FairPlay

    Mitochondria were originally free living bacterial organisms that became incorporated into the eukaryotic cell. The small circular loops of DNA that they have code for the enzymes involved in respiration, and no other characteristics. The devastating effects of the diseases due to mitochondrial defects are because people cannot respire properly, ie gain energy from glucose. Mitochondria divide and replicate independently from the rest of the cell, and provide us with energy and nothing else. This technique allows only for the replacement of a woman’s faulty mitochondria with those donated from an unfertilised egg ie just like the ones I lose each month. The nuclear DNA, determining all the characteristics, come from the mother and father. It would be impossible to use this technique to produce an embryo that didn’t have both parents. The child would be wanted very much, and would bring great joy. I am utterly puzzled as to how you can see this as evil, or claim that you understand the science.

  • Chris

    I am going to let you have the last word after my this reply to you. First of all I can claim to understand. I understood every term you used to try to over speak your point. Mitochondria, eucakyotic loops of DNA. I understand it all. You didn’t address my point at all but showed off that you know some biochemistry. MD’s think differently as oppose to phD’s. And just like a phd you can’t give me any outcome data or say this experiment risks unstable DNA and could cause cancer or deformities to the resultant child in an unanticipated way. I gave you an example of how that has happen in the past using “science”. But the greater point that I think you miss is spiritual. You see, Our Lady once said something very profound in an “alleged” apparition. She said (I am paraphrasing), “what is important is not the health of our bodies but the health of our souls!” And it is using this perspective that I claim this is Evil.” The souls of these resultant children need to know they were born from love and not a Petri dish. They need two parents who will help them put on the mind of Christ and not the mind of people who don’t consider religious authorities such as our Pope. Do you honestly think Christ wants us to reproduce in this way? I don’t think so!

  • FairPlay

    Hi Chris. I will reply once more, as you seem to have missed my point. Your post said that you thought that the technique was evil because it allows for single parents, and this showed that you hadn’t understood the science. Maybe you had mistaken it for adult cell cloning, which is a very different situation. This technique is no more likely to cause extra health problems than current IVF treatments, which have not shown increases in cancer, as the nuclear DNA has not been changed at all. The comments on this article are worrying, as people are using terms like eugenics, and removing the need for two parents, which greatly reduces the argument, because they show a misunderstanding. I think Christ liked children to be born healthy. At the moment we have couples who are prevented from having healthy babies because of a defect that could be rectified. These conceived souls are lost through miscarriage, or have short and painful lives. We have the knowledge to prevent that, and I don’t believe this knowledge came from Satan.

  • Chris