For the first time since the same-sex marriage debate, Australian politicians are to have a conscience vote – this time on the controversial issue of “three-parent babies”.
At least 60 babies are born every year in Australia with mitochondrial disease. Scientists say that this could be prevented by replacing the mother’s defective mitochondrial DNA with healthy mitochondrial DNA from a donor egg.
This was approved in the UK in 2015 for “specific circumstances where inheritance of the disease is likely to cause death or serious disease” after a stormy public debate. Critics claim that it could open the door to genome editing – which is currently banned nearly everywhere in the world.
The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has declared that he will support the reforms.
“I do hope we can go forward here where science allows us to do this. And as you know, I’m a person who has strong religious beliefs as well but it presents no difficulty for me on this issue. And I think the compassionate thing to do here is to find a way where if we can avoid that horrific, horrific suffering then I believe we should.”
Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge
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