Delivering Public Policy: The Status of the Embryo and Tissue Typing

Studies in Christian Ethics 18 (1):57-74 (2005)
Abstract
The author draws on his own experience of helping to make and deliver public policy to indicate the wider context in which ethical decisions have to be made: the law, contested interpretations of the law which have to be settled in the courts, and wider political and economic factors. He argues that the concept of respect for the early embryo does have substance because of the strict regulatory regime of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). He considers the arguments that the early embryo ‘[e]njoys the full rights of the human being and should be accorded respect owed to a human being’. He concludes that these arguments are not finally convincing. He also looks at the moral status of the early embryo in Christian tradition and argues that perhaps from the fourth and certainly from the seventh century in the West until 1869, offences against the early embryo were regarded as less serious than offences against the embryo when developed further. For these reasons he concludes that there should be no absolute prohibition against research on an early embryo up to fourteen days. He also looks at recent cases involving pre-implantation diagnosis (PGD) and tissue typing with a view to obtaining matching tissue from an early embryo for a sibling suffering from a life-threatening disease. Although a distinction has been made between what might be licit in the case of a genetic disorder in the sibling but illicit if the disorder is not genetic, he argues that it could be in the best interests of the early embryo, the child that is to be, if in either case if it was selected with a view to matching the tissue of a sibling
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