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The mtDNA of Human Rights

Douglas, Benedict

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Mitochondrial replacement therapy is a process whereby a child is created by combining the nuclear DNA of two people wishing to have a child with mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) donated by a third person. It poses a new question as to the extent of a person’s right to know the identity of those from whom their DNA is inherited. In commentary upon Turkmendag’s paper, I evaluate the consistency of UK regulation of this issue with the European Convention of Human Rights. Under UK law, a person created using donated mtDNA is only entitled to information about the procedure which does not identify the donor. I argue that this approach is consistent with the previous European Court of Human Rights and UK judicial decisions on the rights of individuals to information about their identity and ancestry and with the deeper foundational principle which Kai Möller argues the Convention protects existential self-understanding. I conclude that, as mtDNA has not been proven to affect an individual’s life choices and outward characteristics to the extent that gamete donation does, it is acceptable to prioritize the interests that anonymous donation protects over the desire of the recipient to know the identity of their donor.


Douglas, B. (2018). The mtDNA of Human Rights. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 43(1), 86-94.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 25, 2017
Online Publication Date Nov 5, 2017
Publication Date Jan 1, 2018
Deposit Date Sep 28, 2017
Publicly Available Date Sep 28, 2017
Journal Science, Technology, and Human Values
Print ISSN 0162-2439
Electronic ISSN 1552-8251
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Issue 1
Pages 86-94


Accepted Journal Article (155 Kb)

Copyright Statement
Douglas, Benedict (2018) 'The mtDNA of human rights.', Science, technology, and human values., 43 (1). pp. 86-94. © 2017 The Author(s). Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.

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