Rather than approve the procedure that will ensure women carrying the fatal mitochondrial disease will be able to deliver healthy babies, the Australian Government will hold a conscious vote.

If the result is a ‘yes’, a biological mother’s defective mitochondrial DNA would be replaced with healthy mitochondrial DNA from a donor egg.

In Australia, at least 60 babies a year are born with mitochondrial disease. This life-threatening disease could potentially be eradicated.

Britain approved the reforms following a decade-long, comprehensive global scientific and ethical review of the treatment. In the UK, mitochondrial donation has been allowed since 2015. The scientific breakthrough is cautiously used in “specific circumstances where inheritance of the disease is likely to cause death or serious disease”.

Mito Foundation CEO Sean Murray said the scientific breakthrough would save lives.

“Mitochondrial disease is an absolutely terrible and debilitating disorder. There are many different types of mito and about half of them are maternally inherited. The mother can show no symptoms but could be at risk of having a child develop life-threatening mitochondrial disease,” he says.

“Often families don’t know about it until they’ve had a child until develop mito. Mito donation will give women the choice of whether or not they add to their family and greatly reduce the risk of their children having it.

“There are carrier screening programs, but broadly speaking it’s not something we test for unless there is a family history but there are women choosing not to have children in order not to pass on this disease.”

“Changing legislation is an arduous process and it takes a long time. Everybody wants to make sure it’s done in a robust, thorough and comprehensive way.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is an ambassador for the Mito Foundation, so it is likely he will support the vote.

At this stage, there is no suggestion that “three-person baby” IVF would be allowed in cases where there is more than one biological mother, such as LGBTQI couples.

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