“This is my dad, my mom… and my other mom.”

by Alina Chrzaszczkowa on February 10, 2015 - 5:25pm

In vitro fertilization, or IVF, is a practice that has raised several ethical questions since its introduction. IVF is essentially the fertilization of an egg in a controlled environment outside the body, after which the fertilized egg is then replaced into a woman’s uterus (“In Vitro Fertilization: IVF”). The practice is common for infertile individuals wishing for offspring (“In Vitro Fertilization: IVF”). Normal IVF uses genetic information from one man and one woman (“In Vitro Fertilization: IVF”). However, just a few days ago, the United Kingdom passed a law that allows for three-person IVF (Gallagher). This method, developed to help prevent the birth of children with defective mitochondria, uses genetic material from a man and two women (Gallagher). Weak mitochondria are passed down from the mother, therefore, by implementing three-person IVF, genetic information from another woman with healthy mitochondria are passed onto the foetus instead (Oelbaum). This could potentially subvert many inherited genetic disorders, and could lead to their elimination in the long term (Gallagher). While this certainly sounds like a good cause- improving the odds of the births of healthy children- some people have misgivings about the process. Most scientists are strongly supportive of the procedure and what it could mean for the health of future generations, however, opponents bring up the troubling idea of a culture of ‘model babies’, and what effects such direct tampering in the creation of life could have on future generations (Gallagher).

                The problem here can be viewed in a variety of perspectives. From a utilitarian perspective (which dictates that an action is moral if it brings about the most happiness (Merrill)), three-person IVF could be considered morally just, as eliminating a severe disorder will most likely bring about happiness not only to the child, but also entire families. Deontology tells us that ethics is based on higher duty (Merrill). If we decide that we also would have liked someone to use their scientific means to save us, personally, from a disorder, we could argue that IVF is ethical. From a teleological perspective, we would have to consider all the possible outcomes of this procedure becoming an accepted, common practise (Merrill).  If the ultimate goal is a healthier population with fewer genetic disorders in the gene pool, then the procedure could be considered ethically righteous. However, does the end always justify the means? It is not difficult to see how having the power to manipulate one’s genetic characteristics from the moment of conception- literally- could raise a few eyebrows. We could now bring up the concern of the possibility of someone conditioning future generations to exhibit certain select traits- a power that will have a direct impact on that generations’ lives. Are we justified in believing we have the moral authority to dictate and manipulate the physical and mental characteristics of future individuals? There is also the gene pool to consider; with genetic information now coming from three different sources, the risk of inbreeding will probably be much more likely- and this could potentially give rise to new types of genetic disorders emerging.

It is difficult to work our way around all the side effects that might be the result of three-person IVF as the procedure is new and its long-term consequences are unexplored, but it also has the potential of offering many people healthy lives.





Works Cited

Gallagher, James. “MPs say yes to three-person babies.” BBC News Health. BBC News. 3 Feb. 2015. Web. 9 Feb. 2015.

“In Vitro Fertilization: IVF.” Americanpregnancy.org. American Pregnancy Association. n.d. Web. 8 Feb. 2015.

Merrill, John C. “Theoretical Foundations for Media Ethics.” Media Ethics. 345-LPH-MS. Sarah Waurechen. Eastman Systems Inc. 2015. Print.

Oelbaum, Jed. “U.K. Legalizes Three-Parent In Vitro Fertilization.” Good Magazine News. Good Magazine. 9 Feb. 2015. Web. 9 Feb. 2015.


I find you covered all the main points extremely well, giving the background information, the different perspectives, and the fact that you illustrate that there may be some set backs, however, the potential for healthy lives is there.
I'm glad to have seen this topic come up as I have just written an editorial/summary piece on the IVF situation in Quebec. You might find it interesting to know that Quebec is cutting down on its IVF funds and adding restrictions such as age to the program. If you're interested, here is a link of an editorial piece that really touches on the age restriction and how wrong it is to restricted women from being able to carry a child.
I hope you enjoy it! I find this topic very fresh and as technology advances we are able to change situations like those that have infertility problems.

Hello Ailna, I went through your article and I found this issue concerning genetic modification on human very fascinating. Your introduction was quite informative and helped me understand this replacement process of diseased mitochondria. And just like you, I feel also concern about the potential side effects of this new technology. As I was doing some research on this topic, one article attracted my attention. In this article, the author Ted Morrow suggests that not all the negative effects of genetic modification are unknown to human. In particular, the interactivity of genes and the epistasis effect in the genome render the outcome of genetic modification rather unpredictable. Since genes do not only execute certain specific task but also make connections with each other and form a complex network, it is unsafe to assume that the removal of mitochondria won’t have any impact on the fetus.

Now before I make my comment into a formal essay, can you teach me how your family name is pronounced?I am dead curious about it.

Link to article: Three-Person IVF: Science Shows Ethical Questions Remain Unanswered

Hello Francois! This reply coming over a year later, sorry! Thanks for commenting; I've always been amazed by the incredible medical strides humans can take. I guess you could say it is both terrific and terrifying, as humans walk a tightrope over morally ambiguous gray areas, with something as tenuous and precious as human life. One could call us presumptuous for daring to try and manipulate the creation of life, cry foul for opening the door wider for eugenics, or, on a more intimate level, the psychological effect on the parents and child should something go wrong. But where can you draw the line for justified sacrifice in human advancement? Restricting human's innate need for knowledge and further exploration practically guarantees that someday, somewhere, that restriction will be broken. I guess we're back at the enduring existential question of the true value of life, knowledge, and what a fair price is for either.

Now look who's writing a formal essay comment! There I go, off on a tangent again...

About my surname- it's Polish. There's no perfect way to describe it phonetically in English, but the closest pronunciation I can describe is: 'hshow- shch - kova'.

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