Mitochondrial disease is a serious condition with potentially devastating consequences for patients and their families. The Minister acknowledges that the potential use of mitochondrial donation to prevent women with disease-causing mutations in their mitochondrial DNA from passing those mutations to their children raises medical, scientific, ethical, legal and social questions which must be considered before any decision relating to possible use of this technique in Australia is made.
The Senate Community Affairs References Committee recently conducted an inquiry into the science of mitochondrial donation and related matters. Its report can be obtained from https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/MitochondrialDonation/Report.
The Committee has recommended that:
- public consultation is undertaken about whether mitochondrial donation should be introduced into Australian clinical practice.
- the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) prepare a discussion paper to facilitate the public consultation.
- the discussion paper should include information about the legislative changes that would be required if mitochondrial donation is to be used.
- NHMRC provides advice to the Australian Government on several important issues relating to the safety of mitochondrial donation and its implications for an individual’s genetic make-up.
- the implementation of mitochondrial donation, if it occurs, should be conducted under a strict regulatory framework.
The Government is currently considering its response to the Senate Committee report. If the recommendations are accepted, and following receipt of the outcomes of the public consultation and NHMRC’s advice, the Australian Government will consider whether to ask Parliament to amend the relevant legislation. The outcome of that process is not certain and until it is completed mitochondrial donation for reproductive purposes remains illegal in Australia.