Innovative reproductive technologies raise concerns about children’s genetic identity. As Douglas and Devolder (2019) explain, such technologies create widening opportunities for children to inherit genomes in ways substantially different ‘from standard forms of human reproduction’. The use of donated gametes, development of reproductive cloning, clinical use of mitochondrial replacement, genome editing of human embryos and creation of stem-cell derived gametes are part of an expanding repertoire of such technologies.
While discussions about genetic parentage where reproductive technologies are used are well developed in the literature, questions about what that use means for the child’s genetic identity in law are less so. Despite this opaqueness, concern about genetic identity has been used to justify successive waves of Australian reproductive technology regulation. Emerging technologies are again raising concerns about the resulting child’s genetic identity. For example, cell reconstruction techniques (whether affecting an embryo’s mitochondrial or nuclear DNA) were observed by the Nuffield Council to impact children’s genetic identity. In contrast, an Australian Senate committee concluded in 2018 that mitochondrial DNA is not relevant to the resulting child’s genetic identity.
These distinctions matter because regulations around reproductive technologies frequently impose boundaries to genetic contributions to human embryos based on genetic identity concerns. Regulations can include requirements that genetic contributors be identifiable, and impose maximum and/or minimum numbers of genetic contributors to human embryos. This paper examines Australian law’s ‘conception’ of children’s genetic identity and its’ responses to challenges to that identity, to determine how regulations can best meet emerging reproductive technologies.