A bioethical discussion of issues inherent to mitochondrial replacement and having “three genetic parents”

Tomohide Ibuki
Volume 1 Issue 1 Pages 50-62
First Published: September 28, 2018



In February 2015, the U.K. became the first nation in the world to legalize the so-called “mitochondrial replacement” procedure for egg cells of patients with mitochondrial disease. Given the possibility that Japan may also seek approval to use this technology, the present study aimed to organize thoughts and discussion points put forth by previous studies concerning the ethical aspects of mitochondrial replacement technology. One main consideration presented here pertains to the unique bioethical issue created by this technology; namely, the birth of children with “three genetic parents.” I have added my thoughts and discussion points.

With regard to mitochondrial replacement technology, I conclude that the following four issues should be taken into consideration: 1) safety, 2) the likelihood of further application, 3) the child’s identity, and 4) “three genetic parents.” This paper takes a particularly close look at 4), as I consider whether mitochondrial replacement would in fact create “three genetic parents,” and whether it would even be ethically problematic if a child was born to “three genetic parents.”


Key words

mitochondrial replacement, three genetic parents, mitochondrial DNA, assisted reproduction technology (ART), bioethics