Health of 3-Parent Children in Question

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

IVFOfficials are now investigating the health of 30 children who were born more than a decade ago via a controversial process that has since been banned because it relied on using genes from three “parents”.

The Daily Mail is reporting on a new investigation by The Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey where a procedure known as cytoplasmic transfer was used on women more than a decade ago. The procedure involved injecting a donor’s mitochondrial DNA into the mother’s fertilized egg to boost the egg’s health. This resulted in creating children who carried the DNA of three parents – that of the donor, the recipient, and the father.

However, no one really knows how this kind of genetic tampering will impact the long-term health of children, which was why the process was eventually banned in the U.S. The Center is now launching an investigation into it’s long-term effects.

One case involves Sharon Saarinen of West Bloomfield, Michigan, who underwent the treatment in 2000 when she was 36 years old and after four failed IVF attempts.

The procedure was a success and Saarinen conceived a daughter, Alana, who is now a seemingly healthy 13 year-old.

“I think it was the only thing that helped me. If there were risks, it didn’t matter. I wanted a child too much at that point,” Mrs Saarinen told The Independent. “It was definitely the right thing to do.”

Although Alana has not yet been tested, some of the 30 three-parent children conceived worldwide were found to have retained a third DNA. What kind of health risks this presents remains an open question.

One of the reasons why the Church condemns these procedures is because of the impact it has on children who have a right to know who their parents are. In this case, the children will likely never know their “third” parent.

But the fact the no one knows the health outcome of these children is even more reason to ban such procedures.

We can only imagine the thoughts that were running through Alana’s mind as she sat next to her mother during these interviews and listened to descriptions of the unnatural procedure that brought her into life. When she heard about the possible but yet unknown consequences to her health, what kind of questions ran through her mind?  Most young teen girls that I know would be asking themselves questions such as: What if there’s something wrong with me that’s really bad? What if I die from it? What if I want to have children? How will that third DNA impact my chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy child?

Artificial reproductive technologies often make perfect sense to infertile parents, but when viewed through the eyes of the child, these methods too often look like the bizarre and unnatural methods they really are.

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