We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Durham Law School

Staff profile

Publication details for Dr Benedict Douglas

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

Author(s) from Durham


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.