Skip to content

Announcement: An international conference on human embryo research

The following guest post is an announcement by David Albert Jones, director of the Ansombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford

How do we decide what protection to extend to the human embryo? On 8 September 2011 at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, the Anscombe Bioethics Centre is hosting a conference ‘Human embryo  research: law, ethics and public policy’. It will provide insight into the state of legal and ethical arguments in different countries, with academics in law and ethics from Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, the United States and the United Kingdom. It is possible to book on-line here:

Should the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority be consigned to the ‘bonfire of the quangos’? Should we accept the principle that ‘the embryo of the human species should be afforded some protection in law‘? Or do we think that, ‘You cannot respectfully pour something down the sink, which is the fate of the embryo after it has been used for research’? Do we agree with Leon Kass that, ‘even in the zygote, we face a mysterious and awesome power, a power governed by an immanent plan that may produce an indisputably and fully human being’? Or do we prefer the clear assertion of Julian Savulescu that ‘the embryo does not have a moral status above that which is derived from the interests of a couple or individual to have a child’? The conference will give time to the ethical discussions that do or should shape the law. There will be exploration not only of the status of the human embryo but also of the use of concepts such as human dignity and instrumentalisation in relation to the human embryo.

While the United Kingdom considers the fate of the HFEA other countries are debating the same issues: a case from Germany that has reached the European Court of Justice will clarify whether or not one can obtain a patent for the commercial or industrial use of human embryos; a new French Bioethics Law was finally approved on 23 June (2011) which liberalises the law, but only a little; and in the United States legal and political disputes continue over to the use of federal funds for human embryonic stem cell research. The conference will look at the ethical principles and debates surrounding legal and public policy debates in these different countries. It promises to be a fascinated conference.

For my part, I think that while the status of the embryo is disputed, and while many people clearly do not see any special moral significance in the human embryo, ‘in general, it is unwise to boast of failing to see something’.

Call for Papers on Human Embryo Research: Law, Ethics and Public Policy

Pre-conference postgraduate/early career seminar

Wednesday 7th September 4pm -6pm

Anscombe Bioethics Centre, 17 Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2NA

Call for papers closes: 29th July 2011

We invite submissions of short papers by postgraduate students/early career academics to the Anscombe Bioethics Centre’s conference on Human Embryo Research: Law, Ethics and Public Policy. The main conference will be held on Thursday 8th September 2011 from 9.30am -5.30pm at Corpus Christi College Oxford. This will be preceded on Wednesday 7th September by a seminar at 17 Beaumont Street Oxford, chaired by Professor Carter Snead.

Papers may be on any topic relating to the ethics, law, or public policy of human embryo research, and should be suitable for a 20 minute presentation.


  • Christian Hillgruber, Professor of Law in Bonn, Germany
  • Jean-René Binet, Professeur de droit privé à l’Université de Franche-Comté, France
  • Laura Palazzani, Professor of Philosophy of Law at Lumsa University, Rome, Italy
  • William Binchy, Regius Professor of Law at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
  • David Albert Jones, Director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford, UK
  • Michael Hauskeller, Associate Professor of Sociology and Philosophy, University of Exeter, UK
  • Carter Snead, Professor of Law at Notre Dame, USA
  • Helen Watt, Senior Research Fellow at the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford, UK

THEME: This conference will consider the various legal and ethical approaches of different countries towards experimentation on human embryos. It will focus not just on one jurisdiction or one ethical or legal topic but will consider a number of different jurisdictions and a number of different ethical concepts and issues.

Research on human embryos is a fast moving area not only scientifically but also in terms of the legal and ethical debates. In the United Kingdom, while the current law was passed only three years ago, the government is already discussing whether to radically reform the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, effectively scrapping it in its present form.

The conference is aimed at all those concerned about public policy on the use of embryos in research, whether from a legal, political, sociological or ethical perspective. This will include students of law, politics, philosophy and the sociology of science, as well as practising lawyers, scientists and bioethicists.

CONFERENCE HOST: The Anscombe Bioethics Centre (formerly the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics) is a Roman Catholic academic institute that engages with the moral questions arising in clinical practice and biomedical research. The Centre engages in scholarly dialogue with academics and practitioners of other traditions. It contributes to public policy debates as well as to debates and consultations within the Church. It runs educational programmes for, and gives advice to, Catholics and other interested healthcare professionals and biomedical scientists.

Please send the following to in .doc, .rtf, or .pdf format:

1) A cover letter containing:

(a) the author’s name

(b) institutional affiliation

(c) contact information

(d) the title of the paper

(e) word count

2) The paper itself, including the title and a short abstract (no more than 200 words), and with no information identifying the author or the author’s institutional affiliation.

Further information about the conference can be found at the conference website

As a charity with limited means the Centre is unable to meet all travel and accommodation costs, but those presenting at the seminar will gain free admission to the main conference in addition to which the Centre will contribute £50 towards expenses.

For further and general enquiries, please email:

Share on

1 Comment on this post

Comments are closed.