Bioethics News

Ethics ignored in ‘3-person embryo’ technique

A fertility doctor in Ukraine is using highly controversial mitochondrial manipulation techniques to treat general infertility ahead of peer review and safety checks, according to New Scientist. Two women are 20 weeks pregnant with embryos created using the technique. Dr Valery Zukin, director of the Clinic of Reproductive Medicine in Kiev, says that he secured approval from ethics committees before proceeding. He plans to present preliminary results at the American Reproductive Technology Congress in New York this weekend. 

Dr Zukin’s clinic offers a full range of fertility services, including surrogacy and egg donation. 

Dr Marcy Darnovsky, of the Center for Genetics and Society, in California, points out that is the second time in three weeks that the magazine has broken stories about rogue fertility doctors using the “three-parent embryo” method.

“We appear to be in a race to the bottom, with fertility doctors ignoring evidence that points to long-term safety risks associated with these embryo engineering techniques,” she says. “They are ignoring ongoing policy debates and conducting dangerous and socially fraught experiments on mothers and children. And they appear to be actively seeking a media splash on the way down.”

Although the UK allows these techniques experimentally, it remains controversial both because of inadequate evidence of its safety, and because they produce “germline” or heritable modifications that raise serious social and ethical concerns.

“As many have predicted, allowing ‘3-person IVF’ for mitochondrial disease opens the door to widespread abuse by fertility clinics seeking to sell the latest IVF ‘upgrade’ to the largest possible customer base,” Darnovsky says.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.