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The fragility of origin essentialism: Where mitochondrial ‘replacement’ meets the non‐identity problem

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Abstract: Few discussions of the ethics of mitochondrial ‘replacement’ techniques have drawn significant ethical distinctions between the two approaches now legal in the U.K. However, Anthony Wrigley, Stephen Wilkinson and John Appleby have together argued that under some circumstances pronuclear transfer (PNT) may be in better ethical standing than maternal spindle transfer (MST). They base their conclusion on what they allege to be different implications of the techniques with respect to non‐identity considerations, which they ground on a version of origin essentialism. I raise a series of problems for their argument, which have cautionary implications for invocations of origin essentialism that go beyond specialized debates regarding MST and PNT. I argue that (i) origin essentialism is a fragile foundation for non‐identity considerations; (ii) gametic essentialism, which Wrigley et al. believe licenses their claims, is more questionable than origin essentialism; (iii) gametic essentialism does not straightforwardly justify their conclusion; and (iv) their conclusion in fact relies on an especially dubious position that we can call chromosomal origin essentialism. No good reasons have yet been supplied to distinguish PNT from MST on ethical grounds, and one should be wary of basing claims with practical impact on fragile foundations relating to origin essentialism.



ORIGINAL ARTICLE, ORIGINAL ARTICLES, chromosomal origin essentialism, gametic essentialism, maternal spindle transfer, mitochondrial replacement therapy, non‐identity problem, origin essentialism, pronuclear transfer

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