Australia could be on the brink of legalising “three-person IVF”, a procedure which is hoped will prevent babies from being born with debilitating and potentially deadly genetic diseases.
It’s called mitochondrial donation, and very basically, it’s when the parts of a woman’s egg believed to be carrying a genetic abnormality, is replaced by the same parts of a healthy egg.
Usually 0.1 per cent of the egg comes from the second woman.
Because three people are required to create the embryo, it has been dubbed three-person IVF – and currently it’s unlawful in Australia.
At the moment the process contravenes two pieces of legislation – the Research Involving Human Embryos Act and the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction Act.
But that could be about to change.
The Australian Federal Government has recently broadly accepted the recommendations of a Senate inquiry into the implications of mitochondrial donation.
It will now convene an expert panel and launch a public consultation process.
The panel is expected to report back in April 2019, but any changes may not come into effect until late 2020.
At the moment, the only country that has regulatory framework in relation to mitochondrial donation is the UK.
In the UK, the Government licenses clinics to perform the technique and regulates which families qualify.