University College, 15 King’s College Circle, Room 161
  • October 11, 2017 from 4:10pm to 5:30pm

Speaker: Bernard Dickens, OC, PhD, LLD, LLD(hc), FRSC, Professor Emeritus of Health Law and Policy, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Medicine and Joint Centre for Bioethics, University of Toronto

Ethical or moral assessments of preserved human embryos cover a comprehensive spectrum. Some regard them as equivalent to born human beings, entitled to a full right to life, while at the other extreme, others treat them like embryos of other animal species, as objects or property. The issue will remain unresolved while approaches vary. Ethical and legal claims to protect human life “from conception” raise concerns of protection between in vitro fertilization and conception in vivo. Modern biology shows a high rate of spontaneous loss of embryos in nature, raising the ethical concern of consistency of response to such loss. Law is more settled in ruling that preserved embryos cannot be treated as persons, but slow to treat them as property, and legislation may prohibit their commercial sale. Individuals may preserve their embryos for their own reproduction, or allow their natural disintegration or transfer to others for reproduction or research, and have legal claims if their embryos are misplaced or misused . An ethical limit barring embryo preservation and research beyond 14 days of development from fertilization is coming under reassessment as study of developmental dysfunctions leading to spontaneous abortion, gestational complications and births of seriously impaired children appears necessary.

This seminar is free and open to the public.