Three-parent babies isn’t progress. If you play God you’ll create hell on earth
As the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority approve plans to allow three-parent babies, David Robertson explains why the move is so dangerous
It seems such a wonderful advance. And Britain is leading the way! Today the UK’s fertility regulator, The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) gave the green light for clinics to apply for licences to create babies made from the DNA of three people.
Doctors in Newcastle are heading the rush to see the first three-parent baby at the end of 2017. One in 10,000 women are in danger of passing on serious genetic disease to their children. The technique that has just been licensed called mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) is meant to prevent this happening and will hopefully result in these women having babies free from disease. Is this not obviously good news? Isn’t any opposition somewhat Luddite, or basically the result of religious people again holding back progress?
Not according to many scientists. There are those who argue that MRT carries significant risks. There have been studies that have shown it is possible for small amounts of mutated DNA, carried over from the mother’s egg into the donors, to replicate and dominate the healthy mitochondria. This would actually mean the therapy would create the disease it was designed to cure.
But there is also a further ethical concern. The genetic manipulation affects all of the cells in the embryo. This means that any problems the procedure might introduce could potentially be passed down to future generations.
There are other ways that this very rare condition can be dealt with. Dr Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship is an excellent source of reliable information on this subject. However I have to admit I have a wider concern. I don’t believe that this is just about those one in 10,000 who are affected by this horrible disease.
What we often find in terms of social and ethical change is that the most extreme examples are taken as a reason for changing the whole policy. It’s funny how everyone complains about the slippery slope argument being used, even as we are sliding down that slope!
So where could this development lead? Dr David King of Human Genetics Alert argues “Already, bioethicists have started to argue that allowing mitochondrial replacement means that there is no logical basis for resisting GM babies, which is exactly how slippery slopes work.”
Humanity in its hubris has sometimes thought that we can create better than the creator.
Earlier this week, we read that the UK’s first homosexual couple to have surrogate children (Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow) are now planning to have surrogate triplets with the eggs of a supermodel. They are paying £50,000 to have their own designer children. And therein lies the major concern. A technique that is being developed to help the one in 10,000 women who suffer from this condition, could easily be used by the wealthy for other purposes. There is also the serious danger of genetical confusion further down the generations.
Humanity in its hubris has sometimes thought that we can create better than the creator. We act as though we are God and end up creating hell on earth. There is no way that this development will stop with this one particular treatment. If we can have three parent babies – why not four or five or 30? If we can have a treatment like this to treat this particular illness, why can’t we use a similar treatment to help create a blond blue-eyed male artistic genius?
I really wish that we would spend half as much effort, time and money on those who are already born in this world, living in poverty and oppression, as we do thinking about how to create new designer babies for those who can afford them!
So rather than celebrating this as a wonderful advance, I am much more inclined to think that human hubris and greed will mean that this development is not progress towards a disease-free nirvana, but yet another self-made human disaster!
I am grateful that the Lord is sovereign, and that the one who created the baby in the womb, who was to become the child in the manger, the boy in the temple, the teacher on the mountain, the healer in the streets, the broken body on the cross, and the resurrected Lord in heaven – is still the king of kings and Lord of lords and is still able to rescue us from our own foolishness.