Debate over ethical issues of creating ‘three-parent babies’, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Debate over ethical issues of creating ‘three-parent babies’

This article is more than 12 months old

A new method of creating "three-parent babies" has sparked discussion on whether the technology should be permitted for mainstream use.

Doctors said the risks are still unknown, while some religious groups raised concerns over the ethical issues that could arise.

Known as mitochondrial genome replacement technology, the method involves combining genetic material from a couple with that found in the egg of a female donor.

Babies born through this method would have the genetic makeup of these three people.

Last week, the Bioethics Advisory Committee launched a public consultation to discuss this technology.

Doctors said that although it could be the only way for some couples to conceive a healthy child, it may pose risks.

For example, damaged genetic material could be brought over to the donor egg.

This could "compromise the effectiveness and long-term benefit" of the treatment, said Dr Suresh Nair, a senior consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.

Dr Nair added that another major concern is that genetic material from the mother and donor might not be compatible.

Dr Citra Mattar, from the National University Hospital's Women's Centre, also pointed out that there are ethical and social issues to resolve.

These include whether the donation of genetic material would qualify the donor to be a parent, and if it is worth investing the resources necessary to make the technology a mainstream procedure.

Father James Yeo, who is rector of the Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore, said "the involvement of a third party in the fertilisation process is considered illicit".

Professor Kon Oi Lian, deputy chairman of the bioethics committee, said there are various ways of approaching the ethical issues.

"The way I would understand it is that it is like a form of genome transplant. It would be like an individual who has a kidney transplant from a donor."

To give feedback , e-mail the Bioethics Advisory Committee at bioethics_singapore@

The public consultation exercise ends on June 15.