MPs get it right…… (yes, no joke)

What could be more heartening than a Parliamentary vote that actually gets something right? For me, it might be a Parliamentary vote that also makes clear the limited power of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in the UK.
These two bodies split apart in the reign of Henry VIII (see the work of David Starkey or Hilary Mantel for the full detail). Catholicism was then supressed, but has now become re-established.
In today’s vote on, er, three-parent children, both of these bodies opposed the idea of avoiding mitochondrial disease by putting the fertilised egg nucleus into an egg with DNA that will make healthy mitochondria. They lost.
Now, what’s this about? BBC Online published a story today about Sharon Bernardi, whose seven children all died of mitochondrial disease, some before they were a day old. Unless I have misread the Christian message, this case alone should mean that the Churches support this initiative with all the energy they can muster.
But no. Instead, they managed everything from calls for delay (the whole thing has been discussed and researched for years, you just weren’t listening) to denunciations of slippery slopes to designer babies. In fact, mitochondria have almost no genetic content and don’t hand on characteristics. They really just push energy about. Contributing some to a baby does not make anyone a parent by any rational definition.
Despite this intervention, the “free vote” (one without party whipping, the standard escape clause for alleged issues of conscience) was won 382-128, meaning that 140 MPs were somewhere else at the time.
As well as allowing a terrible disease to be attacked at source, this vote means that world-leading UK bioscience from Newcastle University will be pushed nearer to use. Politicians know that this country is hot at all things bio. This vote helps just a bit to get to get the clever stuff from the lab to the operating theatre.
But this happy result still leaves a question, for me at least. Are the alleged experts in religious ethics who opposed this idea confident that they are in the right business?

About Martin Ince

UK-based science and higher education journalist, big strengths in universities and university ranking, futures, media strategy and training, Earth and space sciences
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.