Prevent Serious Health Defects by Allowing Genetic Modification of Embryos

Target: British Health Secretary Andrew Lansley

Goal: To legalize selective alteration of human eggs in the UK in order to prevent serious health defects.

In 2008, British scientists successfully created a healthy embryo from a human egg with mitochondrial defects, using a second egg from a different donor. Unfortunately, a British law that forbids alteration of human eggs denies parents the use of this helpful procedure. Proponents of the law claim that this is the first step towards genetic modification of humans. Preventative measures against defects in infants are already common practice, however, and are a far cry from choosing your child’s gender or eye color.

Mitochondria exist outside the nucleus of our cells and provide energy to the cell. They are especially vital in organs that use high amounts of energy, such as the heart and the brain. Mitochondrial defects are passed from mother to child, and lead to incurable complications such as muscular dystrophy, catastrophic organ failure, and mental retardation. By using the outer shell of a healthy donor egg in a process similar to gene therapy, mothers with mitochondrial problems can protect their children from a life of severe physical defects. Successful use of the procedure in Britain would set an example for other countries, perhaps eventually benefiting families around the globe. Ask British Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to help his country change this outdated legislature. By signing the petition below, you can support the legalization of this forward-thinking and lifesaving medical procedure.


Dear Health Secretary Lansley,

The health professionals of your country have successfully developed a procedure that will allow for the prevention of genetic mitochondrial defects in the British population. Disorders of this nature are serious and disabling, ranging from muscular dystrophy to mental retardation. In spite of these implications, British law forbids the use of any procedure that alters a human egg. As a result, children will continue to be born with these incurable and degenerative health defects.

While protection against genetic modification in humans is understandable, the prevention of disease is an entirely different matter. Genetic testing and gene therapy are acceptably common practice in health care systems across the world. Why, then, is the use of donor mitochondrial genes prohibited? Please consider the lives affected by this restriction, and help your country achieve the legalization of this important procedure.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Reshma Jirage via Google

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42 Signatures

  • Darlene Roepke
  • Frédérique Pommarat
  • Lynn Juozilaitis
  • Ann Blank
  • Eveline Mutsaerts
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