Senate Committee recommends change in laws to prevent mitochondrial disease in Australian babies

Australian women at risk of having babies suffering severe mitochondrial disease may soon be able to have healthy children, following the Senate Community Affairs References Committee recommendation to move towards legalizing mitochondrial donation, a ground-breaking IVF technique that replaces energy-generating DNA in the mother’s egg with donor material.

The Committee’s report has been welcomed by the Australian Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (AMDF), the peak body supporting Australians with mitochondrial disease, a serious and potentially fatal genetic disorder that starves the body’s major organs of energy.

AMDF Chairman Dr Doug Lingard thanked the Senators for their hard work inquiring into mitochondrial donation, and called on the Australian Government to act on the Committee’s recommendations as soon as possible.

“At least 60 Australian babies each year could be prevented from suffering severely disabling and potentially fatal forms of mitochondrial disease if mitochondrial donation was available here. It offers the first practical hope for future generations to live free of maternally inherited mitochondrial disease,” Dr Lingard said.

“In the AMDF’s experience engaging with the Australian public, politicians and other stakeholders, including a Citizens’ Jury in 2017, mitochondrial donation receives overwhelming support when people understand the procedure and its ramifications.”

“By acting promptly to change our laws, Australia could become the second country in the world to establish a regulated system to provide mitochondrial donation to families affected by this devastating disease,” Dr Lingard said.

“After ten years of scientific research, ethical review and consultation, in 2015 the UK made pioneering legislative changes to allow mitochondrial donation; these were endorsed in 2016 by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, and the first clinic and patient licences were issued in 2017.

“The Committee clearly recognizes that the UK’s strict regulatory system for mitochondrial donation provides a sound basis for Australia, with only minor changes likely to be required to reflect our local context.

“The AMDF supports the pathway towards legislation recommended by the Committee.

“We stand ready to help in the public consultation process and urge the Australian Government to seek the advice of the National Health and Medical Research Council as soon as possible,” Dr Lingard said.

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