It looks like it will soon be legal in Britain for a baby to have three parents: The Times reports that yesterday, the country’s House of Commons voted to allow in vitro fertilization using the DNA of three people. The legislation is expected to receive final approval by the House of Lords — making Britain the first country to legalize the controversial treatment.
Despite the terminology “three-parent IVF,” the technique isn’t designed with throuples in mind. Rather, the procedure is intended to prevent incurable conditions like mitochondrial disease, which, carried from mother to child, can spur ailments like diabetes, dementia, heart disease, and deafness — it replaces a mother’s faulty mitochondrial DNA with that of a healthy female donor, ensuring the condition won’t be passed on to future generations.
Though opponents of three-parent IVF argue that legalization paves the way for designer babies, scientists note that mitochondrial DNA is separate from DNA found in the cell nucleus — and has no effect on appearance or personality traits. “This is purely about dealing with those terrible, terrible illnesses,” Andrew Miller, chair of parliament’s science and technology committee, told the House of Commons. Assuming the law receives final approval, the technique is expected to be used sparingly.