In February 2021, the Australian Government Department of Health invited feedback on their proposal to legalising mitochondrial donation in Australia through a staged approach. 

The Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences and the Australian Academy of Science submitted a joint response to this consultation.

In this submission, the Academies:

  • supported the Australian Government’s cautious and measured approach outlined in the proposal, which balances risks and community concern with support for clinical research.
  • agreed that the proposal allows mitochondrial donation to be introduced in a manner that gives full scope to evaluate relevant issues such as informed consent, at-risk population screening, service delivery, cost, safety, community concerns, genetic and epigenetic consequences, and impacts on individuals and families.
  • noted that the UK approach to mitochondrial donation is equivalent to stage 1 of the proposed Australian strategy but differences in geography, prevalence and incidence of mitochondrial disease between Australia and the UK should be considered.
  • highlighted the need to ensure that ethical principles are upheld throughout the donation timeline. Prospective parents at risk of having a child with a mitochondrial disorder should be involved in all stages of discussion and decision making regarding reproductive options and families with children born following mitochondrial donation should be strongly encouraged to have health and developmental surveillance well into adult life.

The Academies’ response also provided an alternative approach to stage 1 of the Australian Government’s proposal, whereby a ‘single service’ model could be used. This would allow the specialist mitochondrial donation expertise required to be concentrated where it is most needed, whilst allowing less specialised procedures to occur remotely. This approach could also promote equity of care.

The Academies’ full response can be downloaded below.