I voted in favour of allowing mitochondrial replacement – a procedure aimed at preventing children being born with incurable genetic diseases. I joined yesterday’s controversial debate on the issue which has raised all the old arguments about “playing God” with human embryos.
Mitochondrial disease is a technical glitch in the genes that act as batteries to the body’s cells.
Faulty mitochondria is genetic and is carried by around 2,500 mothers, and can cause children to be born with an array of conditions including severe epilepsy, muscular dystrophy and even acute organ failure.
Children often die in excruciating pain, which cannot be alleviated. Some parents have lost more than one child and I met with local mum Claire Wright, of Sutton in December, who lost her 16-month-old son Jacob to Leigh’s Disease in 2012.
Leigh’s Disease is associated with defective mitochondrial and I heard first-hand the distress caused by this inherited disease.
Mrs Wright urged me to vote in favour of allowing the technique to be used to help mothers with this genetic fault to bear healthy children and prevent others from going through the heartbreak she endured with her son.
I was largely in favour of voting for before yesterday’s debate, but having heard everything that was said during the debate, and having heard Claire’s story, it confirmed my decision. I know there has been talk about the technique creating “three parent babies” because it involves replacing faulty genes in a mother’s egg with healthy mitochondria from a donor egg, but mitochondrial DNA consists of just 37 genes, which do not have any bearing on a person’s characteristics, all of which are still drawn from its own parents.
I listened to the evidence very closely and it is fair to say the procedure has widespread support from the science community as well as leading charities. Yesterday’s debate gave MPs a free vote, which is the right thing to do when it comes to ethical decisions, which should not be made on party lines.