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The Law and Ethics of MedicineEssays on the Inviolability of Human Life$
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John Keown

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199589555

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199589555.001.0001

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The human embryo in vitro: person, chattel, or dolphin?

The human embryo in vitro: person, chattel, or dolphin?

(p.195) Chapter 8 The human embryo in vitro: person, chattel, or dolphin?
The Law and Ethics of Medicine

John Keown

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the legal status of the human embryo in vitro. It begins by considering the legal categories available and concludes that there are two: person or chattel. It then considers the force of an analysis classifying the embryo as a person and the weaknesses of some contrary analyses classifying the embryo as property or as akin to property. It analyses two leading cases, the US case of Davis v Davis and the English case of Evans v Amicus Healthcare, both of which effectively adopted a property classification. It criticises the judgments for failing adequately to address the ontological status of the embryo. It also criticises the judgments for basing themselves on the current criminal law relating to abortion and the civil law relating to negligently inflicted pre-birth injury, instead of on the criminal law’s historical purpose of protecting human life from its beginning.

Keywords:   embryo in vitro, legal status, person, chattel, Davis v Davis, Evans v Amicus Healthcare

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