Social and ethical issues in mitochondrial donation

Br Med Bull. 2015 Sep;115(1):173-82. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldv037.


Introduction or background: The UK is at the forefront of mitochondrial science and is currently the only country in the world to legalize germ-line technologies involving mitochondrial donation. However, concerns have been raised about genetic modification and the 'slippery slope' to designer babies.

Sources of data: This review uses academic articles, newspaper reports and public documents.

Areas of agreement: Mitochondrial donation offers women with mitochondrial disease an opportunity to have healthy, genetically related children.

Areas of controversy: Key areas of disagreement include safety, the creation of three-parent babies, impact on identity, implications for society, definitions of genetic modification and reproductive choice.

Growing points: The UK government legalized the techniques in March 2015. Scientific and medical communities across the world followed the developments with interest.

Areas timely for developing research: It is expected that the first cohort of 'three parent' babies will be born in the UK in 2016. Their health and progress will be closely monitored.

Keywords: ethical issues; mitochondrial donation; reproduction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ethics, Medical
  • Genetic Engineering / ethics
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / transplantation
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / therapy*
  • Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy / adverse effects
  • Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy / ethics*
  • Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy / methods
  • Social Values