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Three persons, three genetic contributors, three parents: Mitochondrial donation, genetic parenting and the immutable grammar of the "three x x"

Dimond, Rebecca and Stephens, Neil 2017. Three persons, three genetic contributors, three parents: Mitochondrial donation, genetic parenting and the immutable grammar of the "three x x". Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine , 136345931668938. 10.1177/1363459316689380

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Abstract

In 2015, two novel in vitro fertilisation techniques intended to prevent the inheritance of mitochondrial disease were legalised in the United Kingdom, following an intense period of inquiry including scientific reviews, public consultations, government guidance and debates within the Houses of Parliament. The techniques were controversial because (1) they introduced a third genetic contributor into the reproductive process and (2) they are germline, meaning this genetic change could then be passed down to subsequent generations. Drawing on the social worlds framework with a focus on implicated actors and discursive strategies, this article explores key features of the UK mitochondrial debates as they played out in real time through policy documents and public debate. First, it situates the technology within a repertoire of metaphors, emotional terminology and their politics. It then explores the immutable grammar of ‘three x x’ that formed a key component of the political debate, by focusing on how institutional reviews discursively negotiated uncertainty around genetic parentage and how beneficiaries were implicated and rendered distant. Following the 2016 announcement of the first baby born through mitochondrial donation (in Mexico) and several pregnancies (in the Ukraine), we close with a discussion about the specific nature of UK regulation within a global economy. Overall, this article contributes to a much needed sociological discussion about mitochondrial donation, emerging reproductive technologies and the cultural significance of genetic material and genetic relatedness.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH426 Genetics
Uncontrolled Keywords: bioethics, chronic illness and disability, experiencing illness and narratives, genetics, health policy
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 1363-4593
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 April 2017
Date of Acceptance: 18 December 2016
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2017 14:45
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/100040

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