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Recipe for success or recipe for disaster? Some may even say too many cooks spoil the broth? Those cooks, in this instance, being too many parents.
This could be the very real scenario for new babies as science and technology improve to assist persons with a genetic mutation to have children without passing down the mutation to their offspring.
The new technique has only been approved in the UK and there is reportedly the first child born under the method. He is currently about eight months old. The mother in this case has Leigh Syndrome which affects the nervous system and is particularly passed down by females. The syndrome was responsible for the mother’s first two children’s deaths.
Whilst the technique is approved in the UK, this scientific experiment was conducted in Mexico where there are ‘no rules’. The doctors, including Dr John Zhang say they have acted ethically including having the procedure approved by the ethics board and not destroying any embryos in the process of the conception.
Dr Zhang has been working on the “three parent” technique and the UK approved method is called pronuclear transfer. This involves fertilising both the mother’s egg and a donor’s egg with the father’s sperm. Before the fertislied eggs start dividing into the early stage of embryos, each nucleus is removed. The nucleus from the donor’s fertilised egg is discarded and replaced with that from the mother’s fertilised egg. In this case as the mother’s mutation was more easily transferred through females, they selected a male egg to reduce the chance of the mutation still affecting the child.
So does the third parent then have parental responsibility or automatically become a person concerned with the care, welfare and development of the child under s65C(c)?
As there are no test cases at present, and at least not here in Australia, it is difficult to consider all of the issues that may occur in the event the intended mother and father were to separate. To use the language of the Act when referring to children born via surrogacy arrangements and assisted reproductive means, you would have to consider the donor’s role to cease upon the donation of the egg or sperm and that the intended parents are the persons empowered with parental responsibility for the child.
This new technology may assist many people trying to have children to ensure that they are genetically healthy in circumstances where one parent is aware of a genetically transmitted disease that is particularly life threatening or fatal.
Please do not hesitate to contact one of our Family Law team if you require any advice to clarify parentage of your child/children.
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