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Jürgen Habermas is regarded as a central bioconservative commentator in the debate on the ethics of human prenatal genetic manipulations. While his main work on this topic, The Future of Human Nature, has been widely examined in regard to his position on prenatal genetic enhancement, his arguments regarding prenatal genetic therapeutic interventions have for the most part been overlooked. In this work I do two things. First, I present the three necessary conditions that Habermas establishes for a prenatal genetic manipulation to be regarded as morally permissible. Second, I examine if mitochondrial replacement techniques meet these necessary conditions. I investigate, specifically, the moral permissibility of employing pronuclear transfer and maternal spindle transfer. I conclude that, according to a Habermasian perspective on prenatal genetic manipulation, maternal spindle transfer (without using a preselected sperm and egg) and pronuclear transfer are morally impermissible. Maternal spindle transfer is, in principle, morally permissible, but only when we have beforehand preselected a sperm and an egg for our reproductive purpose. These findings are relevant for bioconservatives, both for those who hold a Habermasian stance and for those who hold something akin to a Habermasian stance, because they answer the question: what should bioconservatives do regarding mitochondrial replacement techniques? In fact, the answer to this question does not only normatively prescribe what bioconservatives should do in terms of their personal morality, but it also points towards what kind of legislation regulating mitochondrial replacement techniques they should aim at.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





27 - 36


Habermas, maternal spindle transfer, mitochondrial donation, mitochondrial replacement techniques, mitochondrial replacement therapy, prenatal genetic manipulation, pronuclear transfer, three parent IVF, three parent babies, Genetic Enhancement, Genetic Therapy, Humans, Mitochondria, Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy, Morals