The embryo in relationships: A French debate on stem cell research

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 29 (5):583 – 602 (2004)
Abstract
While many European countries are entering unknown legal terrain where the embryo in vitro is concerned, France can already look back on a long tradition of public discussion and legal codification of ways of dealing with in vitro embryos. In its comprehensive law of 1994, France had still rejected embryo research; however, due to the promising perspectives of stem cell research, the new law now pending implies a clear liberalization of the 1994 provisions. Both the French lawmakers and the National Ethics Commission have repeatedly argued that possible utilization of embryos for research purposes may seem legitimate from the moment that there is no more "parental project." De facto, this concept implies that an embryo can be transformed into an object from the moment that the parents cease to desire it and that the value of protection is solely dependent on the will of third persons. At the same time, France is still speaking of guaranteeing respect for the "dignity of the embryo," which would mean that an embryo must not be reduced to a thing and treated for purposes which are not his own. Therefore, the French solution is not a consistent and honest solution, and in its new legal provisions, France has involved herself in manifold contradictions. France has rejected the conception of pre-embryo, but is de facto following Britain's model without making it explicit.
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