”A step towards cloning”

"Children with three parents": the debate continues after the vote of London's Parliament. The Catholics and Anglican Churches say "no"

Following the vote of the Parliament of Westminster, that said ‘yes’ to the creation of "children with three parents", with 382 votes in favour and 128 against, the battle against the discussed procedure, on which the international scientific community remains divided, moves to the House of Lords. If the result is another yes vote, as is likely, the UK will be the first country to legalize a technique of artificial insemination that is not allowed in any other country in the world. The British public is now aligning for or against the decision; the media support alternative positions; discussions extend to civil society. According to the latest polls, only 10% of citizens believe it’s a good idea to pass the bill without waiting for the outcome of clinical trials and rigorous safety tests. Mitochondrial donation. This technique involves the replacement of the defective mitochondrial DNA of the natural mother with that of a healthy donor. The born child would have 99.8 percent of the DNA of the natural parents and 0.2 percent of the donor. The first child with three parents could be born already next year and the procedure could be made available to at least 150 couples a year. The declared objective is to avoid the genetic transmission of serious diseases of the mitochondria, such as muscular dystrophy. The method is considered so controversial that US authorities have decided to ban it. The Catholic and Anglican Churches, as well as various associations linked to the Movement for Life have been urging the British parliament to halt the bill’s adoption. Catholic bishops say "no". The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales pointed out in a statement that mitochondrial donation "treats human life as disposable material" while human embryos "should be respected and protected" from the moment of conception. Bishop John Sherrington explained, "the Church recognises the suffering that mitochondrial diseases bring" and "hopes that alternative methods of treatment can be found" but "it remains opposed on principle to these procedures where the destruction of human embryos is part of the process." The English Bishops’ words were echoed by those of the Scottish bishops. "This technique is not a treatment", said the bishop of Paisley John Keenan. 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. Scottish bishops recalled that the British authority with responsibilities on this issue, the "Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority", did not guarantee it as a safety method. "It is surprising that a society that questions the genetic modification of plants does not do the same with humans", the Scottish Bishops’ Conference pointed out. The opposition of the Anglican Church. Also the Church of England voiced its opposition to the new procedure in a statement and online. Writing for the "Telegraph" Anglican bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, former chair of the "Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority", raised several doubts on the fact that the new procedure is "a cure for hereditary diseases." "The new techniques may prevent babies being born with mitochondrial disease but they will not cure those who have been born already." Strong words of condemnation against the new procedure adopted in Westminster’s Parliament were voiced also by the "Society for the protection of unborn children", one of the most important Pro-Life organizations, which warned that mitochondrial donation is a new step "towards human cloning." "The destruction of embryos in the attempt of producing others eliminating unwanted genetic features is equal to cloning", underlined Paul Tully, "Spuc" spokesperson. "The United Kingdom have been the pioneers of abortion, of in vitro fertilization, and we risk loosing all forms of compassion towards the victims of this medical exploitation."

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