The Status of the Human Embryo: A Case Study of Embryo Experiments and Embryo Research in Denmark

In Mirjam Weiberg-Salzmann & Ulrich Willems (eds.), Religion and Biopolitics. Springer Verlag. pp. 191-212 (2019)
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The problem of the status of the embryo is central when considering genetic and reproductive technology. It is mainly about what is ethically justifiable in experiments with embryos at the earliest stages. However, ownership of the embryo, decisions about donation, and freezing of fertilized eggs are also important problems to discuss. Can embryos and fetal tissue be used for transplantation or in the pharmaceutical industry? The answer to these questions depends on the embryonal ethical and legal status of the embryo. This problem is one of the most controversial bioethical issues in Europe, where for religious and cultural reasons, there is a big difference between the perceptions of the various countries. Rendtorff argues that the embryo must be considered as a “third thing” between people and things. The legal policy discussion on embryo status shows that in the specific legal development, despite major differences between the perceptions of the status of the embryo, a pragmatic consensus on embryonal legal status between persons and things in the European countries can be traced. After having presented the ethical and philosophical issues relevant to embryo experiments and embryo research, he goes on to present a case study of the Danish debate about embryo experiments and embryo research. With this case example, he gives an overview of relevant issues concerning embryo experiments and embryo research in bioethics and biolaw, which concern the legal regulation of bioethical issues.



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Jacob Dahl Rendtorff
Roskilde University

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