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Early Day Motion 122: Professor the Lord Winston of Hammersmith and ‘Three-Parent Embryos’

On Sunday, the Independent reported remarks by Professor the Lord Winston of Hammersmith, the renowned medical scientist and doctor, on the proposed introduction of ‘mitochondrial transfer’ techniques, which attempt to prevent hereditary diseases passed on through a female parents mitochondria by replacing these with healthy mitochondria. One such technique, ‘Pro-Nuclear Transfer’ (PNT), involves the creation and destruction of two embryos in order to create a baby who will not possess an inherited illness. Another, ‘Maternal Spindle Transfer’ (MST), involves taking the nucleus of one female egg and inserting it into another female egg with healthy mitochondria, then fertilising this egg with the sperm of the intended father. This creates a baby with the DNA of three human parents. Whilst affirming the basic idea of such procedures, Lord Winston commented that:

“The problem is that I don’t believe there has been enough work done to make sure mitochondrial replacement is truly safe. There probably needs to be a great deal more research in as many animal models as possible before it’s done.”

In the light of these comments, Fiona Bruce MP (Con; Congleton), who has written about the various problems with mitochondrial transfer techniques, has tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) to raise awareness amongst Parliamentarians about the concerns that Lord Winston has vocalised.

Right To Life urges all supporters to please write to their Members of Parliament to note and support EDM 122, the full text of which is as follows:

That this House notes the comments of Professor Robert Winston reported in the Independent on Sunday on 15 June 2014 on the premature introduction of mitochondrial replacement techniques; urges the Government to heed his warning that a great deal more research in as many animal models as possible ought to be undertaken prior to such techniques being approved; further notes his view that full and far-reaching assessments must be conducted as to the potential risks to children born as a result of the procedures; and calls on the Department of Health to delay bringing the relevant regulations before Parliament until the international scientific community and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority have declared the techniques safe.

Also worth noting are Lord Winston’s further comments on the regulatory incompetence of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which is supposed to regulate experimentation and medical practice that involve embryonic human beings, and the resulting unregulated ‘jungle’ of UK fertility treatment (including over-prescription of IVF):

On the HFEA:

“I think [the HFEA] is not regulating the clinical treatments, which is what it should be doing. I don’t think it is competent. I think it is frightened of being sued. I think it hasn’t regulated the market. I think I can say the HFEA has had its day.”

On IVF and UK Fertility Treatment:

“It’s [NHS fertility treatment] got worse. It has become more and more private and more and more commercial. IVF is being offered as a blanket treatment when there are a whole variety of other things that you could do that might be more effective… What is happening in the jungle is pretty frightening. Of course there are lots of good people doing good work and good medicine, but what is happening with infertility increasingly is that it is not being treated like a symptom… Nowadays, if you go in with a symptom of infertility, you automatically get IVF though there are many cheaper treatments that may be more effective.”