Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues (Print ISSN: 1544-0036; Online ISSN: 1544-0044)


Made to Order Baby? Ethical and Legal Dimensions of Three Parent Baby and Germline Therapy

Author(s): Mahesh Deshpande, Shashikala Gurpur

The three-parent baby concept turned into reality in April 2016 when a boy was conceived and born after his mother underwent a procedure known as Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy (MRT) by a fertility clinic in New York City (Zhang et al., 2017). The technique involved removing the defective mitochondrial DNA of mother’s egg and putting in its place a normal one from the egg of a donor and then fertilizing this altered egg with father’s sperm. The technique is not completely risk free. Although UK has regulations dealing with it in place since 2015 (The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Mitochondrial Donation) Regulations 2015); in USA the FDA has not approved the procedure. The fertility clinic then decided to carry out the procedure in Mexico as it had lax rules with minimal supervision. Ukraine has permitted the use of this procedure-designed primarily to stop transmission of genetic disorders from the mother to the foetus- even for fertility treatment. Safety aside, two main issues arise for consideration, viz. ethicality and legality of such human assisted reproductive technique. It is argued that such procedure sets the human race on a ‘slippery slope’ of germ-line editing which might as well culminate in ‘made to order’ babies (Darnovsky, 2013). This article aims to explore the legal and ethical aspects of MRT, its sociocultural impact, and the possibility of having regulations in place in India to have effective oversight of the procedure before it’s used in India. A discussion on these issues among experts from diverse disciplines including Law, Biomedicine, Bioethics, and government agencies will benefit the society and ensure responsible research in human genetic engineering and assisted reproductive technology. Authors argue for a multidisciplinary discussion than a blanket ban on MRT or germline therapy.

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