I never cared much for science in school. At all. And, yet, last week I found myself sitting in front of my computer for a day and a half listening to public workshops at the Institute of Medicine on “Ethical and Social Policy Considerations of Novel Techniques for Prevention of Maternal Transmission of Mitochondrial DNA Diseases” — AKA “Three-Parent IVF”
The majority of speakers and panelists were clearly sympathetic to moving forward with this technology here in the states. The presentations were decidedly more scientific than they were ethical. And, I must admit, it was often very difficult to listen to so many otherwise brilliant people discuss the creation and manipulation of human life in such cold, calculating terms, no matter how altruistic their intentions.
During last week’s deliberations I was struck by a few things:
1. I was reminded of something I heard Dr. Gil Wilshire with Mid-Missouri Reproductive Medicine and Surgery in Columbia, MO say a few years ago that really got under my skin: “We need three things: a good egg, some good sperm and a good uterus. And we can mix and match these.”
This is the world we live in. The creation of new human life is nothing more than a biological formula — a science experiment, rather than the mysterious fruit of a loving act between husband and wife.
Even when the motivation is to eradicate disease, there’s something profoundly troubling and distasteful to this approach to human procreation. Creating disease-free people (ideally)? The term Brave New World gets thrown around a lot these days, but this really is eerily close to Huxley’s dystopian vision.
2. It was also clear from some of the testimony that nascent human life is being created, manipulated and destroyed far more often than we realize in laboratories all around the world — especially in the U.S. We don’t hear about it because its all pure experimentation and scientists don’t generally talk about their research with the public unless they’ve made some significant discovery.
But, as long as there are absolutely no restrictions on human embryonic experimentation, scientists can and will use nascent human beings as science experiments (and that’s just what children conceived via ‘3-parent IVF’ will be, experiments). If we do nothing they will clone — in fact, they are today!
If there is a silver lining to any of this it’s that, at least in regard to this technology — “three parent IVF” or what you will now see solely referred to by the scientific community as “midochondrial donation” or “midochondrial transfer” (MT) — we still have an opportunity to make our voices heard. To at least try to influence our policy makers before they change the course of humanity forever.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but if you have not done so, yet, I encourage you to let the FDA know how you feel about the genetic modification of future generations. It is my understanding that they will be accepting public comments for a few more months.
Click on “Provide FEEDBACK on this project” at this link or email your response to MitoEthics@nas.edu. If you need help, my friend Rebecca Taylor has posted a sample letter that you can use.
Thank you for helping promote awareness of this agenda. I don’t know what’s taking the collective voices of the Catholic Church so long to start banging the drum of warning, but I think they are all so overwhelmed with the complexity of this argument. I do know they have been presented with substantial material so that they can give direction. I have stressed, repeatedly, that before we can tell the IOM why the brakes need to be applied, we first must understand what exactly is happening.
As you know from watching the meeting, it was extremely frustrating. Although the IOM study’s mandate is to look at the “ethical and social policy implications” of these techniques, most of the committee members seemed to fail to uphold their duties. They did not appear the least bit interested about the social policy implications of approving the first procedures that would alter the human germline. I would encourage all who read this also contact their Congressional (Federal) representative and put it back on them as to why this governing body created to assist the FDA is failing to do what has been asked of them. We need to bring in our Congressional representatives, current and future elected officials, as we all have a stake in this. Does anyone have suggestions who might be interested in hearing from those of us against this?
For me, as I watched, there was still something not being addressed. Why are we going to such lengths to debate this technology when it would impact so few women IF NOT to serve as the proverbial Trojan Horse to allow advancement towards greater genetic manipulation (<300 women per year, at most). There truly is nothing "altruistic" about this agenda, and I resent it being promoted as a means to "cure" mitochondrial diseases. It's exploitative, for those of us who live with such diseases. That 1 in 5,000 has been so misused in the media, and again in the presentation to the IOM, as that figure applies to all those who "may" develop the disease in their lifetime, and does not accurately represent those born with the disease. Most mitochondrial diseases arise from mutations in the nuclear DNA; this technology addresses (for now) ONLY mutations in the mitochondrial DNA. The presentation that its altruistic driven is a smoke screen for those who stand to profit greatly when given the opportunity to advance genetic manipulation.
Feel free to contact me if I can be of any help to you or if you would like a copy of the letter I sent to the IOM. Keep upholding His truth, no matter how discouraging it may seem.