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A Mitochondrial Story: Mitochondrial Replacement, Identity and Narrative

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Jackie Leach Scully



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley-Blackwell, 2016.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


The developing mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRTs) are intendedto avoid the transmission of mitochondrial diseases from mother to child. MRTsrepresent a new biomedical technology with ethical, policy, economic and socialimplications. The ethical debate has raised questions about the potential effects onthe identity of the potential children born from MRT, their families, and theproviders or donors of mitochondria. It has been suggested that MRT can influenceidentity directly, through altering the genetic makeup and physical characteristics ofthe child, or indirectly through changing the child’s experience of disease, and bygenerating novel intrafamilial relationships that shape the sense of self. In this paperI consider the plausibility and ethical implications of these proposed identity effects,and focus on the potential mediating influence of the wider social world on MRT’seffects on identity. By taking a narrative approach, and examining the character andavailability of identity narratives, I conclude that while direct genetic and indirectexperiential effects cannot be excluded, social responses are more likely to be both asignificant and a potentially damaging influence on the narrative construction ofMRT children’s identities. This conclusion carries some implications for the collectivemoral responsibility to ensure MRT is implemented in ethically justifiable ways.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Scully JL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Bioethics

Year: 2016

Volume: 31

Issue: 1

Pages: 37-45

Print publication date: 01/01/2017

Online publication date: 14/12/2016

Acceptance date: 12/09/2016

Date deposited: 04/01/2017

ISSN (print): 0269-9702

ISSN (electronic): 1467-8519

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1111/bioe.12310


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