Following the Senate Community Affairs References Committee report of its Inquiry into the Science of Mitochondrial Donation and Related Matters, the NHMRC Chief Executive Officer was asked to facilitate a public consultation on the possible introduction of mitochondrial donation into Australian clinical practice.
Mitochondrial DNA disease is an inherited condition that can cause serious health issues and, in severe cases, reduced life expectancy. Mitochondrial donation is a new assisted reproductive technology to help people avoid transmitting mitochondrial DNA disease to their biological children. Applied in conjunction with IVF, it is in limited use in the UK and some other countries, but not Australia. Mitochondrial donation might be able to assist in the prevention of mitochondrial DNA disease in an estimated 60 births per year in this country. NHMRC is asking the Australian community to consider the social and ethical issues associated with mitochondrial donation.
This paper provides an overview of mitochondrial donation and related ethical and social issues in the context of Australian law. The purpose of this paper is to inform and engage the Australian community and to seek views on the issues raised. This paper outlines:
- what mitochondrial disease is and who it affects
- how the technology of mitochondrial donation works
- how current Australian law limits the application of mitochondrial donation
- ethical and social considerations around this technology
- a glossary of key terms.
Overall, this consultation process aims to understand whether an informed community, having considered the issues, would support the introduction of mitochondrial donation into Australian clinical practice at this time.