Bioethics News

All boxes ticked, UK rolls out 3-parent embryo treatment

Government regulators in the UK have given a green light to the creation of three-parent embryos to combat mitochondrial disease.

A regulatory framework has been in place since October 2015, but clinics had been advised to wait until after the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority had considered the opinion of an expert panel.

The HFEA Chair, Sally Cheshire, praised the cautious approach taken by the government.  

“Although it is tempting to rush ahead with new treatments, the UK approach of testing public opinion, putting the issue to parliament and carefully monitoring laboratory research has proved to be the most responsible and sustainable of introducing new, cutting edge treatments into the clinic. Such an approach has allowed us to balance innovation with safety, maintaining public trust as we go.”

Clinics must apply for permission to offer mitochondrial donation to patients. The HFEA will first assess a clinic’s suitability, looking at existing staff expertise, skill and experience at the clinic, as well as its equipment and general environment and then grant permission on a case by case basis to treat individual patients.

A team at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University will probably be the first group to be granted a licence. It hopes to help 25 couples every year. The government health service will fund the treatment for the first trial of three-person IVF, as long as couples agree to participate in a long-term follow up of their children.

The media in the UK was jubilant, with The Independent commenting that it was “the best possible news for many families this Christmas.” But not everyone agreed.

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.