A call by WA's chief medical officer to allow the creation of embryos using genetic material from three people has polarised WA's two major church groups.
The Anglican Church has supported Simon Towler's submission that politicians need to consider changing the law to allow medical experts to create embryos free of some genetic diseases. But the Catholic Church urged parliamentarians to reject the move.
The addition of a third lot of genetic material is considered important in defeating mitochondrial disease - the group of neuromuscular diseases which can appear as heart failure, muscle weakness and dementia.
Under the process, which is banned under Federal law, the nucleus of a cell from the mother carrying the mitochondrial disease is placed into a cell from another mother, from which its own nucleus has been removed. This "enucleated" cell has healthy mitochondria which contain the donor's DNA.
The nucleus which is transferred into the enucleated cell also comes from two parents, which means the final embryo contains the genetic material of three people.
The Anglican Church supports the process as long as there are safeguards to limit its use to correcting severe diseases but warned that regular reviews were needed to ensure the tissue used was sourced ethically.
"Pragmatically, one can argue that the embryo and the foetus are dead or soon to be dead so the tissue would be 'wasted' anyway," Archbishop Roger Herft said.
"We must regularly re-examine the ethical implications of our pragmatism, however, remembering that a similar argument was probably used by the nazi (Josef) Mengele in justifying experiments on Jewish children: they were prisoners and would be killed anyway."
WA Catholic Archbishop Barry Hickey said the idea of having more than two lots of DNA in one embryo was "bizarre" and the ban should remain.He said the destruction of an embryo marked the death of a "tiny human person".
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