Human Exceptionalism

Don’t Make Human Three-Parent Children

I had a run in last year with Science 2.0’s, Hank Campbell, over my opposition to the manufacture of three-parent embryos, for which opinion, Campbell tried to saddle me with the dreaded ”anti-science” epithet. (I think the new version of that pejorative for opposing what “the scientists” supposedly think is “science denier.”) He even argued that NRO should throw me off the site.

My opposition to three-parent embryos is based in ethics, but also on safety–in eminently reasonable concern given that IVF children generally have poorer health outcomes than those conceived naturally, and more particularly, the technique in question creates embryos using two broken eggs and one sperm. Animal studies seem to show reason for concern.

I thought of that tempest in a teapot the other day when a reader sent me a story reporting that a major NIH science adviser has warned against trying the technique in humans for safety concerns.  From the Daily Mail story:

Professor Evan Snyder, the top scientific adviser on the issue to US authorities, yesterday warned there were unresolved safety concerns…

‘The gap I’m talking about is about how much pre-clinical scientific work needs to be done before scientists or someone on the FDA would feel comfortable that we’re assured of safety.’ Asked whether it would be justifiable to permit the procedure to go ahead on compassionate grounds, Professor Snyder said it should not be allowed until all the extra research is completed.

Of course, Snyder is talking about animal research. The horror!

Snyder’s opinion is important because the we-never-say-no UK Embryo Authority seems on the verge of approving using the technique in humans. But that would be human experimentation in which the human involved could not give consent. By definition.

I understand that mothers don’t want to pass mitochondrial disease on to their progeny. I know there is a strong maternal drive to bear one’s own child. I get that it can be a heartbreaking situation for the want-to-be parents.

But our empathy for women who have to choose between being a biological mother and bearing a healthy child, as the professor said, should not mean we put potential children into peril.

Moreover, we live in an anything goes culture in which “I want!” subsumes all–which is why the technique would eventually spread to polyamorous relationships in order to allow all members to have a biological connection to the child. That would be a radical alteration in our understanding of parenthood and needs much consideration before being permitted.

I would say, “Adopt,” as I have previously, but some people get very angry with me when I do. I still don’t understand why that is cruel. A mother gets to become a mother and a child gets a loving home. Everybody wins.

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