Oral Presentation Australasian Association of Bioethics & Health Law and New Zealand Bioethics Conference

Nuclear Families: mitochondrial replacement techniques and the regulation of parenthood (1188)

Catherine Mills 1
  1. Monash University, Claytone, VIC, Australia

Since mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRT) were developed and clinically introduced in the UK, there has been much discussion of whether these lead to children borne of 3 parents. In the UK, regulation of MRT has dealt with this by stipulating that egg donors in MRT arrangements are not genetic parents even though they contribute mitochondrial DNA to offspring.

In this paper, I examine the way that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act in the UK manages the question of parentage and consider the implications of this for the prospect of MRT in Australia. Tracing contradictions in the rationalisation of MRT, I argue that the Act remains tied to and protects the heteronormative family unit, redefining genetic parentage in terms of nuclear DNA. In effect, the UK regulation remains bound to a heteronormative imaginary in the process of making legally permissible a technology that challenges the heteronormative family structure. Looking to the possible introduction of MRT in the Australian context, I make a case for an approach to regulatory change that avoids such sleights of hand.