Three Parent IVF – What is wrong with our Society?

Dr. Pascoal Carvalho

The UK move to legalize in vitro fertilization with three parents is Immoral and Dangerous. With this proposal, the foetus will thus have the DNA of three different people.

According to British researchers working on the project, “Three way” in-vitro fertilization eliminates the so-called “mitochondrial diseases”, a series of genetic defects transmitted only from mother to child. The female egg is composed of a core, inside which is located the mitochondrion, organelle that provides energy during the cell multiplication, which will then form the foetus in all its parts (organs, tissues, muscles, etc.).. In case of problems with the mitochondria, the energy necessary for the development of cells in an embryo is reduced, thus giving rise to possible defects in the fetus. However, the mitochondrion itself does not determine the physical or genetic characteristics of the embryo.

Mitochondrial DNA diseases offer distinct challenges to scientists and clinicians because we inherit our mitochondrial DNA in a different manner to our chromosomal genes. Our mitochondrial genes are passed down from our mothers’ eggs and on through her daughters to subsequent generations. Media reports are full today of reassurances that that mitochondrial DNA only accounts for 37 out of our 20,000 human genes and that this therefore is a small step that will be undertaken only under “strict safeguards”. It is important to note however, that one in 6,500 babies is born with mitochondrial disorder but only five to ten of these have conditions are serious enough to merit this intervention.

While these UK proposals have been called “three parent IVF”, this term actually applies to only one technique. The other technique they are considering is a form of cloning from one embryo, using a second, donor embryo to create a third “clone” embryo. Only the third embryo would survive to be born.

With either technique, this would be the first time UK scientists were permitted deliberately to alter the genome that would be passed on to future generations. In many countries it is illegal to attempt to alter the “germ line” in this way. The approval of such testing is likely to pave the way for improper use of the medicine and transformation of genetic selection into a real option.

We need to bear in mind that cell nuclear replacement technology or “cloning” technology has not yet been shown to work in humans. Whilst it appears to be effective in lower mammals like mice, the use of cloning techniques in higher mammals has resulted in huge numbers of miscarriages and the birth of large numbers of abnormal offspring. It took 273 attempts to produce Dolly the sheep and she herself was abnormal and died early. There is a strong possibility that we may simply be trading mitochondrial disease for other abnormalities if babies are ever born after use of the technique.

As with any IVF techniques the failure rates are very high. Thousands of embryos will needed to be produced and experimented upon in developing these techniques. The destruction of embryos in the IVF process requires the destruction of human which is sacred.

If such techniques gain legal sanction then I dread to imagine where our world will be headed. Currently scientists are asking about only one kind of disease, mitochondrial disease, which is passed by women to their children via genes outside the nucleus of the egg. However, we are already witness to moving boundaries with other IVF-related technologies, IVF already allows doctors to do genetic testing prior to implantation. Gender selection is also being carried out, and with further technical refinements genetic “enhancements” could include the colour of the child’s skin or probable IQ, or indeed any other feature that the parents might covet, might be an option.

With these proposals, human genetic engineering becomes a reality and that the science of eugenics has now being validated beyond question – it has definite potential for being misused. In In-vitro eugenics generations of embryos (people) can be created in Petri dishes, eliminating unsatisfactory genes in the quest for better human beings .Already the practices undertaken during IVF treatment, are alarming. Parents and doctors often want more and more control of the “designer” baby. If alteration of the germ line is allowed for mitochondrial disease then it will certainly be requested for other diseases and also pave the way for improper use of the medicine and transformation of genetic selection into a real option not forgetting the staggering its societal impact of IVF

India is a thriving destination for IVF and surrogacy . The value of the surrogacy market in India is reported as Rs. 20 billion a year thanks to a vague regulation on the subject. In particular, surrogacy is increasingly widespread in the country. Legalized by the Supreme Court in 2002, today it is a million dollar industry. In Mumbai alone there are between 70 and 80 centers for assisted reproduction and just over 200 in the State of Maharashtra.

But even as the media was abuzz with this medical breakthrough the Canonization of Pope John Paul II also captured headlines. Pope John Paul the Great, the Pope of Life left behind a pro-life legacy in which he reasserted the moral values the Catholic Church. The Church holds dear Pope John Paul the Great, the Pope of Life, encouraging us to foster and defend the Culture of Life.


Dr. Pascoal Carvalho has a Post Doctorate in Immunology (WHO) and is a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and the Diocesan Human Life Committee. Former Member of the FIAMC Centre in Mumbay.



Statement on Mitochondrial Donation following the vote in Parliament

03/02/2015 5:15 pm

Statement from Bishop John Sherrington on behalf of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales (following the vote in Parliament)

“Despite the genuine and considerable concerns of many people, the decision of Parliament is clear on this issue. Whilst the Church recognises the suffering that mitochondrial diseases bring and hopes that alternative methods of treatment can be found, it remains opposed on principle to these procedures where the destruction of human embryos is part of the process. This is about a human life with potential, arising from a father and a mother, being used as disposable material. The human embryo is a new human life with potential; it should be respected and protected from the moment of conception and not used as disposable material.”


Statement on Mitochondrial Donation Pre Vote