Mother who lost seven children backs three-parent IVF technique

editorial image
Have your say

A MUM is urging MPs to back a controversial IVF technique which would allow babies to be born with three genetic parents.

On Monday, backbenchers are set to debate whether to allow mitochondrial replacement (MR) therapy in the UK.

If the motion is passed, the United Kingdom will move one step closer to becoming the first country in the world to allow the technique, which would be used to prevent children inheriting devastating diseases.

Sharon Bernardi, 48, of Springwell, lost seven children to mitochondrial disease – six within a few hours of them being born. Son Edward died at the age of 21 in 2011.

Now she and husband Neil, 45, are hoping they can help to prevent other families from suffering the same loss.

“I don’t think I can express enough the pain I go through every day,” she said.

“If this goes through, it could prevent children dying of these diseases altogether.

“I don’t think anyone can imagine the pain we have gone through as a couple, having carried babies and them die six times, then to be told that our beautiful baby boy has a disease which will shorten his life.” She added: “We don’t want Edward’s life to have meant nothing to other people.

“We want it to have made a difference. If this goes through Parliament, it would be brilliant for people.

“This is a guarantee that babies would not be affected. We are urging MPs to vote for it and put it through.”

Sharon started campaigning to have fertility rules changed in 2010 when Edward was still alive.

If the regulations set before Parliament are not passed next week, then it will take another four or five years for them to be brought before the house again.

But Sharon is hoping for a good response.

“The feedback has been really positive,” she said.

“We do have some negative feedback but I think it is possibly from people who have had children without any complications, or not had children.

“Until you have walked in my shoes, then you don’t have the right to judge.

“This would have been brilliant in my case.” Backbench MPs will debate allowing MR therapy in the UK on Monday.

A full debate in both houses of Parliament will be held when the regulation is tabled, which is expected later this year.

MR treatment employs two different IVF techniques, aiming to prevent diseases by giving babies healthy mtDNA from donor eggs.

The baby is born with normal “nuclear” DNA passed down by its parents – containing most inherited traits such as eye and hair colour and height – plus a tiny amount of mtDNA donated by a second donor “mother”.

In effect, the baby has three genetic parents, though the donated mtDNA contains less than one per cent of its genes.

Since the healthy mtDNA would be inherited by future generations, the treatment has the potential to eradicate mitochondrial diseases from affected families.

Critics argue that allowing the treatments could be the first step down a slippery slope towards “designer babies” and eugenics.

If mitochondrial replacement is permitted, more than 100 “three-parent” babies could be born in the UK each year.