Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Oct/13

6

For the Children (Not)

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IVFMuscular dystrophy is an inalienable human right (or something).

The Daily Telegraph reports:

A group of 34 European politicians, including eight British MPs and peers, has signed a declaration attacking plans which will make the UK the first country in the world to permit the new IVF technique. Under legislation being drawn up by ministers the treatment will be offered to a handful of parents at high risk of having children with conditions such as muscular dystrophy, as early as next year.

The therapy can dramatically reduce the risk of children inheriting disorders of the heart, brain and muscle which are caused by faults in the mother’s mitochondria, structures which supply power to cells. But it has proved controversial because it involves substituting a small fraction of the mother’s damaged DNA with that of a healthy female donor.

Because the swap takes place at the “germ line”, the third party’s DNA would not only be passed on to the child, but also to any future generations down the female line. The therapy was recommended to government by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority earlier this year after a public consultation revealed general support. Doctors developing the treatment have emphasised that the DNA in question lies outside the nucleus of the cell and will have no bearing on the child’s personality or appearance.

But a declaration made by members of the Council of Europe, a human rights and ethics organisation made up of politicians from across Europe [it’s rather more than that], strongly condemned the decision to permit the technique.The declaration proposed by Jim Dobbin, a British Labour MP, which compared the technique to a “eugenic practice”, was signed by 34 members of the human rights organisation’s 318-strong parliamentary assembly.

It said: “The undersigned members of the Parliamentary Assembly affirm that the creation of children with genetic material from more than two progenitor persons, as is being proposed by the United Kingdom Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, is incompatible with human dignity and international law”.

Superstition, nothing more. Well, on reflection, monumental arrogance too.

It was signed by five other Labour MPs and peers as well as Edward Leigh, a Conservative MP, and the Earl of Dundee, a hereditary peer along with politicians from twelve other nations. The declaration, in effect a statement of opinion by the signatories, does not reflect the view of the whole Council but could now become the subject of a full debate or report.

That Leigh, supposedly a conservative, believes that this is a matter for some international and unaccountable body rather than something to be decided by Britons for themselves only makes matters worse.

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2 comments

  • WmarkW · October 7, 2013 at 12:02 am

    Is something like this where gay marriage will take us?

    Two men who want to conceive get a female egg donor, strip out her DNA, replace it with that from one spouse’s sperm, to be fertilized by the other’s.

    (Is this done already? I don’t know.)

  • John · October 7, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    Medical treatment is an easy case, but germline genetic engineering is a very big deal, and it is worth discussing. Would you allow:

    1) A treatment that eliminated muscular dystrophy but had no other effects
    2) A treatment that eliminated muscular dystrophy but an increased chance of heart disease
    3) A treatment that increased IQ by 20 points but took an average of 6 years of life
    4) A treatment that would make a person a world class athlete, but also ugly
    5) A deaf couple to treat the child to make him deaf
    6) A straight couple guaranteeing a straight child
    7) A gay couple guaranteeing a gay child
    8) A man to create a sociopathic child

    Some very sharp lines are going to have to be drawn. I think that the 34 people above are drawing it in the wrong place, but there is a line somewhere.

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