Prohibiting mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT), sometimes called 3-parent in vitro fertilization (IVF), may violate an individuals’ right to genetic affinity, according to a commentary published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics.  

G. Owen Schaefer, PhD, and Markus K. Labude, MA, MPhil, of the Centre for Biomedical Ethics, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, note that regulators are uncertain how to respond to the new technology. Reports suggest that 3-parent IVF has succeeded in Ukraine, while the United Kingdom has taken steps to authorize the procedure for use in clinical research. Yet MRT is banned in many countries, including in most of Europe, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. 

The investigators argue that to ban or severely restrict MRT risks violating the reproductive rights of citizens, basing this argument on the right to genetic affinity, or the right to bear genetically-related children. Disallowing MRT while allowing other forms of IVF unfairly affects women with mitochondrial disorders by selectively denying them the ability to bear healthy, genetically-related offspring. Although it could be argued that financial barriers to MRT would remain, at this time legal restrictions are a greater impediment to access. 

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However, the researchers hastened to add that the right to 3-parent IVF does not imply a right to unregulated MRT. Safety and efficacy considerations must inform the regulation of the procedure, and donors’ right to fully informed consent must be protected. Nor, it is important to note, should women with mitochondrial disorders be prohibited from having children naturally. Regulators must carefully balance these matters against the rights of citizens to access MRT.

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Schaefer GO, Labude MK. Genetic affinity and the right to ‘three-parent IVF’ [published online September 18, 2017]. J Assist Reprod Genet. doi:10.1007/s10815-017-1046-8