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Lesbian motherhood and mitochondrial replacement techniques: reproductive freedom and genetic kinship
  1. Giulia Cavaliere1,
  2. César Palacios-González2
  1. 1Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, King’s College London, London, UK
  2. 2Centre of Medical Law and Ethics, The Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr César Palacios-González, The Centre for Medical Ethics & Law, The Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London, London WC2R 2LS, UK;{at}


In this paper, we argue that lesbian couples who wish to have children who are genetically related to both of them should be allowed access to mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRTs). First, we provide a brief explanation of mitochondrial diseases and MRTs. We then present the reasons why MRTs are not, by nature, therapeutic. The upshot of the view that MRTs are non-therapeutic techniques is that their therapeutic potential cannot be invoked for restricting their use only to those cases where a mitochondrial DNA disease could be ‘cured’. We then argue that a positive case for MRTs is justified by an appeal to reproductive freedom, and that the criteria to access these techniques should hence be extended to include lesbian couples who wish to share genetic parenthood. Finally, we consider a potential objection to our argument: that the desire to have genetically related kin is not a morally sufficient reason to allow lesbian couples to access MRTs.

  • genetic engineering
  • history of health ethics/bioethics
  • gene therapy/transfer
  • children

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  • Contributors GC and CP-G equally contributed to the conception and design of the work; and drafting the work and revising it critically for important intellectual content after a first review at the JME. Both authors approved the version to be re-submitted and are on agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

  • Funding We are both grateful to the Wellcome Trust for funding our research. GC is the grant holder of a Wellcome Trust Doctoral Studentship in Society and Ethics (grant no.: WT108623/Z/15/Z). CP-G is funded via a Senior Investigator Award in Society and Ethics: The Donation and Transfer of Human Reproductive Materials (grant no: 097897/Z/11/Z).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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