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Controversial mitochondrial donation legalised after conscience vote

·2 min read

Members of parliament have voted to legalise controversial mitochondrial donation in the first conscience vote since same-sex marriage in 2017.

The legislation, known as Maeve’s law, will legalise partial DNA donations, allowing women to give birth without passing on a genetic disease.

The bill amended the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction Act 2002 (Cth), and the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002 (Cth), and was subject to a conscience vote.

It passed on Wednesday night, 92 votes to 29.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, told parliament that the law had been a “difficult issue” to resolve, particularly for those with religious beliefs.

He spoke about the suffering of Kara Crawley who had the disease that had led him to become a patron of the Mito foundation.

“Kara, she died almost five years ago next year, and she died of her 20th stroke” Morrison told parliament.

“She was a beautiful girl. I knew her very well over many years, and I know that her parents Craig and Karen would be very pleased this day.

“Karen also has that Melas mutation. Her young, other son, Braden, he has it and he’s now suffering from the condition, and his younger sister Samantha also has that gene.

“I just pray this will give hope to so many Australian families. I do indeed thank the house for the way that they have dealt with this manner.”

Related: Mitochondrial donation: how an IVF procedure could help Australian families ‘break the genetic chain’

It is estimated about 120,000 Australians carry the genetic mutation that can lead to mitochondrial disease, withabout 1 in 5,000 at risk of developing serious illness.

The disease affects the energy production within cell function and can be debilitating and often fatal.

It is the second most diagnosed serious genetic disease after cystic fibrosis.

The bill was first introduced to parliament by health minister Greg Hunt in March and is named after five-year-old Maeve Hood, the daughter of Joel and Sarah Hood, who live in Hunt’s Victorian electorate. Maeve has a severe type of mitochondrial disease which was diagnosed at 18 months.

The new laws in Australia follow changes to legislation in the UK made in 2015.

Mitochondrial donation had been illegal under Australian law as it is an offence to create a human embryo that contains the genetic material of more than two people, and contains heritable changes to the genome.

The treatment involves replacing mitochondrial DNA from the mother with healthy mitochondrial DNA from the egg of a woman who is a donor.

Those who voted against the bill included the Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, conservatives Angus Taylor, Michael Sukkar and Alex Hawke, and Labor MPs Matt Keogh and Luke Gosling.


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