Mitochondrial Donation: Is It Safe? Is It Ethical?

Progress Educational Trust
Palace of Westminster, London SW1A 0AA
2 February 2015
This public event was organised by the Progress Educational Trust (PET) in the Houses of Parliament, and was hosted by Luciana Berger (Labour and Cooperative MP for Liverpool Wavertree, and Shadow Minister for Public Health).
PET organised this debate to clarify the science, safety and ethics of this area for the benefit of Parliamentarians and members of the public alike, the day before MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Mitochondrial Donation) Regulations 2015, which permit mitochondrial donation to be used in clinical practice. The debate was cited by several MPs - including Luciana Berger, Guy Opperman and Liz McInnes - in their contributions to the House of Commons debate that preceded the following day's vote.
Mitochondrial donation means using IVF techniques to avoid the transmission of mitochondrial diseases from mother to child. These diseases are caused by faulty mitochondria (energy-generating structures in our cells which contain a small portion of their own DNA), and can often be debilitating and fatal.
Conceiving a child via mitochondrial donation involves using biological material from three people - the child's parents, plus a female mitochondrial donor. This is why these techniques are sometimes referred to as 'three-person IVF'.
New Regulations proposed by the Government would make the UK the first country in the world to legislate for mitochondrial donation. The science and ethics of this area have been the subject of many years of high-profile discussion in the UK, including public consultations by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Department of Health. The safety of mitochondrial donation has also been assessed in detail by three expert scientific reviews.
All of these exercises have concluded that it is acceptable - in terms of science, in terms of ethics, and in terms of support from the public - to permit the use of mitochondrial donation in treatment. Despite this, questions about and criticisms of mitochondrial donation continue to be raised from some quarters, and the relevant scientific and ethical considerations are not always easy to grasp.
This event saw experts with different perspectives debate whether mitochondrial donation is safe and ethical.

Frances Flinter
Professor of Clinical Genetics at King's College London, and Consultant in Clinical Genetics and Caldicott Guardian at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust
John Harris
Professor of Bioethics and Director of the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation at the University of Manchester, and Leader of the the Wellcome Trust's Strategic Programme in The Human Body, Its Scope, Limits and Future
Dr David King
Founder and Director of Human Genetics Alert
Philippa Taylor
Head of Public Policy at the Christian Medical Fellowship, and Consultant on Family and Bioethics at Christian Action Research and Education

Dr Roger Highfield
Director of External Affairs at the Science Museum Group, and science writer and broadcaster

Partners and supporters:
Luciana Berger MP