The British Parliament is considering lifting a ban on new medical techniques that would result in a child having three or four parents.
“This is high-tech medicine at its worst and most unnecessary,” Dr. David King, director of the Human Genetics Alert, said in a London Telegraph report.
The draft legislation would change the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act 2008 to allow mitochondrial DNA transfer. Proponents say it would help prevent children from suffering debilitating conditions such as muscular dystrophy.
In one procedure, Maternal Spindle Transfer, the nucleus in a healthy donor egg is replaced with the nuclear DNA from a prospective mother, resulting in a child with DNA from three parents.
Another, Pro-Nuclear Transfer, creates a child from four different individuals: a chromosomal mother, a chromosomal father, an egg mother and a sperm father.
The BBC reported lawmakers soon will vote on whether to make the U.K. the first country in the world to legalize the procedures.
The leglislation would require a special government license for clinics doing the procedures. It would specify that the woman donating her egg would not be related to the child and determine that any child born “would have no right to information about the donor.”
The BBC said a center in Newcastle would be the first to offer the services.
King said, according to the London Telegraph, medical researchers “are crossing the crucial ethical line that will open the door to designer babies based on scientific misinformation and ignoring majority public opposition.”
Public Health Minister Jane Ellison told the BBC the government “considers that the time is now right to give parliament the opportunity to consider and vote on these regulations.”
Doctors said if legislation move along smoothly, they could offer the procedures as early as 2015.
The Telegraph said about one baby in 200 in the U.K. is born with severe mitochondrial disease, which includes muscle wasting, nerve damage, loss of sight and heart failure.