MODE OF LIFE INTRODUCTION
Dearly beloved readers, we post this selection of articles from the British Roman Catholic online site “The Catholic Herald”, as it raises a very serious issue regarding the current discussion and legalisation of Three-way IVF within the United Kingdom. I suspect, that this issue of three-parent babies will become another one of these bio-ethical issues that many other countries will soon be confronted with. The concern that the general public, or more specifically Orthodox Christians will have, is access to detailed, comprehensible and honest information regarding these new developments within “birthing technologies” and human reproductive processes. Yet from the outset we could cite that these new bio-technologies are untested and we do not know what their outcome will be, but then again, no serious study to date has been done regarding what the impact of IVF has had on the general population and its health, despite being assured of the safety of the procedure. Of course theoretically, and with existing evidence, IVF does not seem to have had an adverse effect on human genetic health, but this matter of “three-parent babies is something of another order, and presents far more serious genetic and ethical issues that must be dealt with.
One colleague had mused that people fear artificial technology taking over humanity as represented in science-fiction films like Terminator, but the chances are, we will become the robots if the developments in bio-technologies and electronics continue. I suppose he may be right. But one thing I know, is that the human organism is a very delicate and complicated system that has many capabilities and variables. One variable that comes to mind is that carriers of thalassaemia are immune to malaria. The survival of populations in areas that have high rates of malaria, invariably reveal a higher rate of thalassaemia carriers and sufferers within their populations. Just as carriers of cystic fibrosis have greater immunity to tuberculosis. And as paradoxical as this may seem, some of these illnesses have ensured the survival of human populations in given regions of the world. Other illnesses have deprived peoples of certain abilities or a clean bill of health, but have compensated in other ways or compelled people to strive to go beyond what was conventionally believed possible. Whether it was the brillance of mathematical minds that suffered bi-polar depression or delusion, to artists suffering from schizophrenia who utilised their illness to inspire and create their great artworks, to people suffering physical disabilities such as Tamerlane who demonstrated how one can overcome or train the human body to adapt.
To my mind, I recall the words of St Paul who speaks about how he was made great in his weakness and weak through his greatness. And with reference to the current development in bio-technology, it is possible that in our rush to create a “pain-free” life devoid of struggle or suffering, we might inadvertently be killing off the variables that ensure the survival of the human race, or deprive it of its infinite variables, creativity and ability to adapt and change. Anyway, I leave you with the following articles rather than more of my own hot air.
VM on behalf of Mode of Life Project
SCIENTISTS OFFER WOMEN £500 FOR THEIR EGGS FOLLOWING THREE-PARENT BABY VOTE
By Simon Caldwell – Tuesday, 17 February 2015
A scheme for the harvesting of female eggs follows the House of Commons approval of Government regulations to permit ‘three-parent IVF’
Scientists planning to create the world’s first genetically-modified children are offering to pay women £500 for their ova.
The scheme for the mass harvesting of female eggs follows the House of Commons approval of Government regulations to permit “three-parent IVF” in an attempt to combat often deadly inherited mitochondrial illnesses.
A team at Newcastle University is advertising “for fit, healthy women between the ages of 21-35 years old who are willing to donate their eggs. Donors will receive £500 compensation for a completed donation cycle”.
“To help us achieve this, we need volunteers coming forward to donate their eggs so that we can use the healthy mitochondria and thus create a healthy pregnancy,” says the team’s advert in a local newspaper.
“Any women coming forward to offer egg donation would be assessed and undergo a full debriefing of what any procedure would involve.”
The plan to harvest eggs for the procedures met with immediate criticism from campaigners opposed to the new regulations, which will face opposition when they are presented to the House of Lords on February 24, including a motion to suspend them until further research is undertaken.
Lord Alton of Liverpool said it was wrong for scientists to pre-empt the outcome of the vote when there were grave concerns among peers that the regulations were either unsafe, illegal or unethical.
He said egg procurement procedures carried the risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, a condition which harms nearly 500 donors a year, and which is classed as severe in about 60 of the cases.
“Women’s health is wantonly and dangerously placed at risk by hyper-ovulation,” Lord Alton said.
“In addition, one of the procedures involves the destruction of the human embryos fertilised by the eggs.”
He added: “The enticing of women, who may well be unaware of the risks, and who may be in dire financial straits, with offers of substantial sums money, only adds to the reasons why the House of Lords should insist that this is given further consideration.”
Mitochondrial genetic defects can leave cells starved of energy, causing muscle weakness, blindness, heart failure and death. It is estimated that defective mitochondria affect one in every 6,500 babies in the UK each year.
One of the two methods covered by the regulations is maternal spindle transfer. It involves the extraction of the genetic material from a mother’s ovum which is then inserted into an eviscerated healthy donor ovum before fertilisation by the father. This method is sometimes called “three-parent IVF”.
The other method, called pronuclear transfer, involves the creation of two embryos – one with its mother’s defective mitochondria and the other by donor parents.
At the one-cell stage the donor embryo is partially gutted and the mother’s pro-nuclei with her DNA inserted into the remaining cell with its healthy mitochondria.
Both embryos are destroyed in the process, and the mother’s embryo is effectively cloned and repackaged before the cells begin to multiply and grow into a baby.
The proposed technologies will alter the human germ line and if the regulations clear the Lords, Britain will be the first country in the world to legalise them.
They are prohibited by the European Union, opposed by the United Nations, and have been questioned by the US Food and Drug Administration, which stated that the “full spectrum of risks … has yet to be identified”.
Mounting concern over the technologies among scientists around the world last year led the respected New Scientist magazine to ditch its unequivocal support for the procedures and to call for a halt to the passage of legislation while more research is carried out.
IN THE THREE-PARENT EMBRYO DEBATE, WHY IS IT ASSUMED THAT SCIENTISTS ARE ALWAYS NEUTRAL AND BENIGN?
We have come to think that all scientific breakthroughs and discoveries must be viewed as ‘progress’
When I sat down to listen to the BBC’s five o’clock news programme on the radio yesterday, for a fleeting minute, as the broadcaster introduced the item about the Commons vote on “three-parent babies”, I indulged in the fantasy that some MP, with great debating gifts as well intellectual power and moral intensity, had stood up during the debate and actually persuaded the House by the force of their argument not to go ahead. Then the news came: a vote in favour by a majority of 254 votes. As I said, I was indulging in fantasy rather than reality.
I heard the news with the usual sinking feeling that follows from Commons debates on subjects like this. When was the last time that a Commons debate concerning the subject of the very start of life, the egg and embryonic stage, concluded “No, we won’t do this – because it is ethically wrong?” Most people, like me, do not have the scientific training to discuss in detail what is at stake, so we rely on what the experts tell us. However, as Christians, we recognise that where the dignity of human life is concerned, even at its earliest stages, we have to ask the fundamental question: will the science that is being proposed tamper with this dignity?
This ethical consideration was why Bishop John Sherrington, speaking for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, stated that the Church is “opposed in principle to these procedures where the destruction of human embryos is part of the process.” There are other considerations too: the mitochondrial donation which would combine the DNA of three people into one IVF embryo would for the first time alter the human genetic make-up, not just of the IVF babies created by the process, but of future generations of children within affected families. As Christian Medical Comment said, there were five questions that needed to be discussed in Parliament: Is it necessary? Is it safe? Will it work? Is it ethical? Is the debate being handled responsibly? None of them was properly answered in the Commons.
Tory MP Fiona Bruce voiced the concerns of those opposing the vote: “Because they permit the genetic modification of human embryos and oocytes; because these regulations permit human embryos to be created only to be destroyed.” She also warned it would set a dangerous precedent: “Once we approve this procedure, where will it end?” Where indeed?
Naturally, all the experts lined up to support this new technique were keen to play down its ethical implications. Health minister Jane Ellison emphasised that it would not lead to a slippery slope of genetically modified designer babies and Dr Jeremy Farr, director of the Wellcome Trust, stated that “Families who know what it is like to care for a child with a devastating disease are best placed to decide whether mitochondrial donation is the right option for them.” The Prime Minister, whose son Ivan had suffered from epilepsy and cerebral palsy, added that “It is not playing God with nature” and that “it is much more like a kidney donation or lung donation rather than some sort of fundamental change that is being made.” As Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who voted against the amendment, pointed out, this analogy is patently untrue: “You are not curing somebody of something, you are creating someone different. People have compared it to blood transfusions. That is simply wrong.”
My final thoughts: why do people assume that white-coated scientists are simply neutral – or benign – in the work they do? They are no more so than historians (as historian David Starkey pointed out of his own Cambridge teacher, Geoffrey Elton, who influenced Hilary Mantel’s “slant” on the Tudor court of Henry VIII); why are such debates always conducted emotionally, with particular blighted families in the foreground? Does desiring a cure for a sick child have to trump all other considerations? Why should we think the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the fertility regulator, which has been behind so much undignified experimentation on embryos, speaks the same language or inhabits the same moral universe as Christians?
The fervent atheists who run the country in Lord of the World, a book I blogged about on Tuesday, constantly talk about “the progress of man.” We have come to think that all scientific breakthroughs and discoveries must be “progress”. In the hands of fallible humans, especially those who run the country, along with the pressure groups, experts and lobbies behind them, this is not the case.
SanSan: Super ovualtion can cause brain cancer among other harmful effects to women. The war on women seems to never end. Another Abomination of man.
Coniston: There’s a good letter about this in The Times (31 January 2015) – ‘Three-person IVF’ by Dr Helen Watt (of the Anscombe Centre).
Anon: I recall talking with Anglican sixth form students visiting an exhibit on life science and art, partly curated by the Wellcome Trust. No-one seemed prepared for the implications of these procedures, nor was the college aware of any guidance from C of E clergy at that time. Thankfully, other aspects of the displays allowed for discussions on scientific neutrality/ progress/ethics/sponsoring-funding etc. Twenty years on, having lost some battles, at least we now have internet access to the Anscombe Centre for Bio-ethics / SPUC and LIFE.
SimonS: A notion of neutrality is conflating two things.
The first is scientific correctness; a studied impartiality to the reality of the world. Although all individuals have biases, the notion of being a scientist is very strongly tied up with this. Nobody goes into science for the money – I could trivially double my salary by going into the commercial world – but because I think that science is important. And to sacrifice the principles of what I have dedicated myself to, would achieve little.
This is compounded by the fact that the environment is relatively cut-throat (both in terms of publishing and securing funding). The easiest way to triumph (and deny others) is to prove someone else decisively wrong. So there is a huge incentive to find mistakes (and not to make them).
The second area is one of ethics. Scientists are no more or less biased than any other individuals. We have our own preconceptions (and those who have worked in an area are inherently more likely to be comfortable with the ethical consequences of it – through familiarity and conditioning if nothing else).
The primary reason that scientists should be listened to in ethical debates such as these is that they are likely to have a more correct awareness of what is actually being done. They have spent the last 15 years (in this case) explaining their procedures to others, and ethics committees, and journals, and funding sources. The chances are they have already considered the relevant issues at some point.
That is not to say that they have come to the right conclusion – but they are more likely to be asking the right questions than politicians, journalists or lawyers who don’t really deeply know the subject.
Alan40: It seems to be a natural human failing to adopt the state of mind that says one’s own profession, whatever it is, must trump all other considerations. I have noticed that with lawyers; nothing, however imperative, must be allowed to interrupt the normal legal process. Professional training makes people think that their own field of work is all-important, and nothing must be allowed to challenge it. We see how scientists (obviously with exceptions) are prone to this failing, when they suppress all moral considerations; the end justifies the means. One (slightly mischievous) thought occurs to me: does this also apply to theologians?
Jacobi: Scientists are not neutral or necessarily benign. They are professionals doing a job which requires funding and substantial funding at that. They have their salaries to think about, endless new toys for their laboratories to buy, and of course, very important, various conferences about the world they must fly to, listen at and occasionally make an obscure contribution to. There is of course that weekend-plus off while they are there to go and see the local sights.
To do this, to attract the enormous sums of money required, they will go to any lengths to
raise funds from government and the gullible public, and that includes the use of professional fund raisers.
These professionals and of course their scientist employers, both from industry and Academia,
will have endless heart rending stories based on the worst scenario type of argument, will make endless promises, usually such as have been made several times before, promise yet another break-through, anything to keep the money flowing in.
As for ethical considerations, I’m not saying there isn’t the odd lone individual who has such, but for the 95% + that comes well, well down in their considerations.
gentlemind: ‘Progress’ has retained its assumed positiveness whilst becoming a by-word for change. Thus the suggestion is that change is good in and of itself. Which is a lie.
This subject (‘three parent babies’) has highlighted, once again, how poor our moral representatives are at explaining things at the level of principles. The article gives many good reasons, but not a single right reason. The procedure is not ‘unethical’, it is immoral. We should not be against it ‘because embryos are destroyed’ (not all of the techniques require embryos). We should be against it because it is wrong. And the thing that makes it wrong is…the right-ness of the human body, as willed by God.
The State is permitting us to poison the raw material from which a person is to be manufactured. That is Satanic.
The State is permitting us to make babies. Spot the mistake? We don’t need permission to make babies, because we already have all that we require – our bodies, made male and female!
Darren: Unfortunately the majority of the public along with government ministers have lost the ability to think and reason philosophically, preferring instead to choose based on their emotions and whatever is new.
Gary Yates: Dr Mengele would be proud of the Commons today.
Sansan: Progress? Reproduction of the human species in petri dishes? This is an abomination of creation and Our Lord. May God have mercy.
Mark: Why? is it because Huxleys “Brave New World” is no longer studied in schools and the T4 programme and associated eugenics and human experimentation never was?
THREE-PARENT BABY LAW MAKES HUMAN LIFE DISPOSABLE, SAYS ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP
By Simon Caldwell – Wednesday, 4 February 2015
Bishop John Sherrington says the Roman Catholic Church remains opposed to procedures where the destruction of human embryos is part of the process
The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has condemned the House of Commons decision to vote in favour of legalising three-parent children.
Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster issued a statement on behalf of the bishops, stating that “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,” he added. “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.”
MPs voted yesterday to legalise a genetic process to fight the transmission of mitochondrial diseases, such as muscular dystrophy, in which the DNA of a third individual is added.
If the legislation is approved in the House of Lords, Britain would become the first country to allow scientists to alter the human germ line in trying to defeat incurable diseases.
The two procedures covered by the regulations are highly controversial because they are not permitted in any other country in the world, with international scientific opinion divided over their effectiveness.
After a 90-minute debate in the House of Commons, members voted 328-128 to approve the unamendable legislation.
Mitochondria are the biological power packs that give energy to nearly every cell of the body. Genetic defects can leave the cells starved of energy, causing muscle weakness, blindness, heart failure and death in the most extreme cases. It is estimated that, each year, defective mitochondrial defects affect one in every 6,500 babies in the United Kingdom.
Two procedures were covered by the regulations.
The maternal spindle transfer technique involves the extraction of the genetic material from a mother’s egg, which is then inserted into a donor egg in which the maternal spindle has been removed and discarded. The reconstituted egg then is fertilised by the father’s sperm before implantation in the mother. The procedure is known as “three-parent IVF.”
The second technique, pronuclear transfer, involves up to four parents. Potential parents would go through the procedure for in vitro fertilization with the embryo from the parents seeking a child to be combined with parts of a donor embryo. The process requires that both embryos be destroyed while the mother’s embryo is effectively cloned and repackaged before the cells begin to multiply and grow into a baby.
During the House of Commons debate Jane Ellison, public health minister, told politicians they had nothing to fear.
“This is a bold step for Parliament to take, but it is a considered an informed step,” she said. “This is world-leading science within a highly respected regulatory regime and, for the many families affected, this is light at the end of a very dark tunnel.”
After the vote, Bishop John Keenan of Paisley, Scotland, said the proposed techniques fail on ethical grounds.
“They destroy human life, since in order to construct a disease-free embryo, two healthy ones will have to be destroyed. The technique is not a treatment, it does not cure anyone or anything, rather it seeks to remove anyone affected by certain conditions from the human gene pool. Destroying those who have a particular disease and presenting it as a cure or as progress is utterly disingenuous and completely unethical,” he said.
The practice “distorts the natural process of fertility,” Bishop Keenan said.
“It is surprising that a society which increasingly favors and supports natural and ‘environmentally friendly’ products and services should countenance the genetic modification of human beings. How can we object when scientists genetically modify plants, but not when they do the same with people?” he said.
Helen Watt of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, an Oxford-based institute serving the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom and Ireland, called the vote’s outcome “a disaster”.
“We can only hope that the House of Lords will take a more skeptical approach,” she said. “No one will be treated by these techniques, which transfer nuclear DNA out of and into eggs or embryos in the course of producing genetically modified babies.
“Children born and their descendants may be harmed in ways we are currently unable to predict,” she said. “This is human experimentation, to say nothing of the embryos destroyed — in the case of one procedure, two embryos destroyed every time that procedure is performed.”
During the House of Commons debate, Fiona Bruce, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, told members they were being asked to authorise experiments on children, adding that “the implications of this simply cannot be predicted.”
“But one thing is for sure, once this alteration has taken place, as someone has said, once the genie is out of the bottle, once these procedures that we’re asked to authorize today go ahead, there will be no going back for society,” Bruce said.
The proposed technologies are prohibited by the European Union, opposed by the United Nations, and have been questioned by the US Food and Drug Administration, which has stated that the “full spectrum of risks … has yet to be identified.”
Among those concerned is Stuart Newman, professor of cell biology and anatomy at New York Medical College, who told Catholic News Service on February 3 that he was “very disappointed” by the vote.
“With all the science that has been done on this it is still being portrayed as mitochondrial manipulation,” he said. “It is not, it is nuclear manipulation.”
Newman said he had no doubt the procedures amounted to the genetic modification of human beings.
“It’s basically the creation of a being from the bits and pieces of cells from different people,” he said.
“Scientifically, it you try to put together an organism from fragments of cells, it’s going to mostly not work. Frequently it will look normal, but there will be things wrong with it. That has been shown experimentally.”
He said it was dangerous because it disrupted the “evolutionary compatibility” between the nucleus of a cell and the mitochondria of the cell.
“It is going to lead to children with conditions which, in some cases, will probably be worse than the conditions they are trying to avoid,” he said.
MPS VOTE IN FAVOUR OF THREE-PARENT BABY LAW
By Staff Reporter – Tuesday, 3 February 2015
Amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act passed in the House of Commons
MPs have today voted in favour of changes to the law that will see Britain become the first country in the world to permit the creation of IVF babies with DNA from three different people.
After a debate in the House of Commons, MPs voted by in favour of the amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act by votes 382 to 128.
If approved by the House of Lords, where the change in legislation will next be debated, it will mean that IVF clinics will be able to replace an egg’s defective mitochondrial DNA with healthy DNA from a female donor, which would result in babies having DNA from three people.
Speaking in favour of changing the law, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison told the Commons: “This is a bold step for parliament to take, but it is a considered and informed step. This is world leading science within a highly respected regulatory regime.
“And for the many families affected, this is light at the end of a very dark tunnel.”
However, Fiona Bruce MP, who voted against the amendment, said that “highly legitimate concerns” had been ignored.
“Today’s vote shows that, despite the Government pushing this through at breakneck speed and the multi-million pound pro-research lobby pouring resources into passing this, a significant number of MPs raised highly legitimate concerns about proceeding, on many counts, including ethics, safety, science and legality and Parliamentary procedure,” she said.
“These MPs reflect the views of the nation, only 10% of whom, according to the latest polling by Comres, thought MPs should have voted on the regulations today. I hope this will be recognised in the House of Lords when there will be an opportunity to vote on giving more Parliamentary time to these extremely significant regulations.”
During the debate, Mrs Bruce said: ““One thing is for sure, once this alteration has taken place, as someone has said, once the genie is out of the bottle, once these procedures that we’re asked to authorise today go ahead, there will be no going back for society.”
CAMPAIGNERS ‘FEAR THE WORST’ AS MPS PREPARE TO VOTE ON THREE-PARENT BABIES
By Staff Reporter – Tuesday, 3 February 2015
A leading pro-life charity has said it “fears the worst” as MPs prepare to vote on whether to change the law to allow three-parent babies.
MPs will vote later today on an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act that would allow IVF clinics to replace an egg’s defective mitochondrial DNA with healthy DNA from a female donor, which would result in babies having DNA from three people
Life (http://lifecharity.org.uk/), Britain’s biggest pro-life charity, has been asking people to lobby their MPs to vote against the proposed change to the law, however a spokesman said in a statement that he was not optimistic about the outcome of the debate.
“We fear the worst. The Department of Health, led by Health Minister Jane Ellison, who was educated in a Catholic convent school, is bent on getting its way,” the statement said.
“It tried to smuggle legislation through Parliament but was forced to bring its proposals onto the floor of the House to be voted on by all MPs, but it is still insisting that what it proposes, so-called mitochondrial donation, is not genetic modification and there’s nothing to worry about. That is simply nonsense.”
SPUC (https://www.spuc.org.uk/), a pro-life campaign group, has also raised its concerns ahead of the vote in the House of Commons. In a statement, the campaign group described Britain as “the pioneers of abuses of unborn children”.
Paul Tully, SPUC’s general secretary, said: “The 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act was not intended to permit human cloning, and so the alteration of germ-line genetic material was forbidden.
“However, the proponents of the 1990 Act held out promises of cures and medical advances for children with inherited diseases if they were allowed to use some embryos as guinea-pigs. These benefits failed to materialise.”
Mr Tully added that if the MPs vote in favour of the amendment then it would “sets a precedent for wider cloning of human beings, not in a sinister dictatorship or science fiction world, but here in the UK”.
“We are the pioneers of abuses of unborn children like legalised abortion, IVF and genetic screening, and we are in danger of losing all feeling for the victims of such medicalised exploitation,” he added.
“MPs have been consistently misled in the past about the prospects of success and the future intentions of those who want to use the tiniest humans – human embryos – for experiments. They should reject today’s proposals,”
Meanwhile, Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, has also called on MPs to vote against the law changes.
Changing the law would be crossing “an ethical, legal and scientific line” and would make the UK a “rogue state amongst the international community of ethical scientific endeavour,” she said.
In a letter to MPs, she wrote: “The Government is effectively seeking a licence to allow experiments on human beings – not only on human embryos but a life-long experiment on the children who are born as a result, and their children and their children.”
A petition has also been launched by the ProLife Alliance against the proposed amendment to the law.
Last week, Bishop John Sherrington, of the bishops’ conference department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship, urged MPs to vote against proposed legislative change.