UK law sez: mommy and daddy and baby and donor makes 4

A Bold Move, says UK public health minister:

I’m not sure I can even anticipate the results. I don’t say that to indicate my opposition to the change, which I think has some very valid and beneficial effects for humanity in general and baby-seeking couples in particular. But it occurs to me that there’s no particular reason three is a limit. Humans have forty-six chromosomes.

What kinds of changes to our laws, our traditions, our concepts of natural parenthood await?

And are those changes any reason to forbid this process?

I’m leaning towards, “I don’t know,” and “No,” respectively, but I think seeing the issue debated would help clarify my thinking.

The extra donor in question is donating mitochondria, which afaik contribute to cell metabolism but not to any phenotypic changes.

I have to agree with Lumpy. This is mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down directly through the female line. Since there is no genetic mixing in the mitochondria at conception, if the donor is someone who shares a direct female ancestor with the mother, but does not have damaged mitochondria, the child’s DNA will be unchanged from the rest of the family(minus the mutation that damaged the mitochondria in the first place.)

It seems a little weird that the procedure needs a special law to allow it. Do all medical procedures in the UK need approval from Parliament?

But in anycase, I’m not really seeing a downside. Less dead babies is certainly good. More people that want to be parents are able is certainly good. And as others said, the resulting children aren’t going to be any different than their peers.

I guess there might be some weird custody battles in Courts if the mitocondrial parent contests it for some reason. But the Courts already deal with plenty of custody issues where there are more than two people that can claim to be parents, and they seem to muddle through alright.

I understand this. But my question relates more to the social and legal aspects of parenthood – if, for example, the donor is NOT someone who shares a direct female ancestor with the mother (unless this condition is satisfied with “mitochondrial Eve”) – then what legal or socially recognized standing would the mitochondrial donor have to the offspring?

Probably the same as you would have with an egg or sperm donor. That is, no standing, as far as I know.

That’s a problem, but I’m not sure its a particularly big one. We already deal with plenty of cases where multiple people might claim parenthood: sperm donors, egg donars, surrogate wombs, adoptees, contested paternity, kids raised by relatives, babies switched at the hospital, etc. I imagine some muddle of contracts and lawsuits will solve the legal issues in the same way it does for everything else. (and as a practical concern, I doubt there actually will be that many such lawsuits, though I’m sure eventually we’ll see one or two).

Socially I don’t think there’s really an issue. The point of the procedure is so that the two “chromosomal” parents can have kids, so I suspect in pretty much all cases they’ll be raised by the two parents as they’re own, and no one will know the different. There might be a few cases where that isn’t the case, but then there are plenty of non-traditional families around, and it doesn’t really cause problems. I don’t see how the fact that Jr shares mitochondria with another woman in his chromosomal parents polygamous cult or whatever really adds much in the way of complications that wouldn’t be there without that link.

Personally, I would see it as legally analogous to an organ transplant.

I would view gamete donation the same way, for that matter, but obviously the law generally does not.

The mitochondrial donor would have no rights at all. In the UK sperm donors and egg donors have no rights or responsibilities if the procedure is conducted at a clinic. There’s no reason to believe that this situation, where no actual DNA is even shared (mDNA is not the same thing), would be any different.

No. But medical procedures involving human embryos in the UK have been tightly regulated by Acts of Parliament for the past quarter century, so relaxing the existing regulations to allow new procedures not envisaged by the previous Acts does require new legislation.

I have to add that I’m surprised at you, Bricker, for posting this thread with your argument being about the number of chromosones. That’s not relevant to this and I would have exected you to read the actual case a bit better.

From what I have heard, if (for example) a woman has an affair with a man, has his baby, but her husband is unaware or never challenges the paternity of the baby, then after X months, he’s legally considered the baby’s legal guardian and is on the hook to provide financial support, etc. for that child. So it’s not like the legal system cares too much about genetics (assuming that this understanding is true).

And it makes sense that it wouldn’t. Spraying semen isn’t a particularly deep undertaking in and of itself. Taking care of a child, teaching it, raising it, cleaning up after it, etc. those are the things that make one a parent.

The legal system probably only likes the concept of linking a baby to its parents genetically because you want a baby to stay in place with a family, not to be bandied about randomly, and you want a fallback home in the event that the parents die. When you can say, “Look, these are the parents.” It makes everything easier. But failing that, the goal is still to choose a particular set of legal guardians and make those people stuck for it.

Correct, but if the father protests and wants to be a part of the baby’s life, the courts will grant that request, provided a paternity test reveals its true.
Regardless of the “dad” hes been.

There’s no X number of months. Most states provide that a putative father is the legal father if he provides for the infant prior to establishing (genetic) paternity or acknowledges paternity. Some states go even farther.

ETA: what courts are those?

That guy was either unable to was not allowed to determine paternity.

What guy?

Gerald was the husband.

Did you read the opinion?

It’s similar in the UK. The main way of determining “parental responsibilty” (a legal term, not just a moral one) is if you’re named on the birth certificate. A married woman does not have to take her husband or same-sex partner along when registering the child’s birth. An unmarried woman does. So a married cuckolded father will be on the hook even if he discovers what happened as soon as the baby was born.

I’m not sure what would happen if the “father” had already initiated divorce proceedings before the baby was born and it turned out he wasn’t the father; I can’t find anything online.

But really, this is tangential to the topic. The person who donates sperm to be used by a stranger at a clinic never, in the UK, has parental responsibility. He cannot be asked to pay for the child and he can’t even be identified until the child turns 18 and seeks him out. Same for egg donors, just change the pronouns.

That’s why there’s no chance whatsoever that the donator of mDNA would be on the hook or considered a parent in any way - this is not exactly going to be happening in somebody’s bedroom, only in a clinic setting.