Irish Ostriches, Embryos and Stem Cells

  • Fionnuala Gough

Student thesis: Phd


5ABSTRACTThe University of ManchesterDoctoral Programme in Bioethics and Medical JurisprudenceFionnuala Gough19th December 2012Irish Ostriches, Embryos and Stem CellsHuman embryonic stem cell research would seem to offer the prospect of developinga greater understanding of, and potential therapies for, common degenerativediseases such as diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Despite thefact that some Irish institutions engage in such research, Ireland is one of the fewcountries in Europe which has failed to produce any relevant regulatory frameworkor legislation. This is largely because embryo research and its regulation remainmired in conflicting socio-political values and interests, despite the fact that the invitro human embryo is not afforded any legal protection under the Irish Constitution.This thesis seeks to examine the current Irish legal lacuna in relation to embryos andembryonic stem cell research.The first of the three papers making up the core of this thesis reviews the backgroundto the moral, legal and social factors that have contributed to the extant Irish position.A description of the divergent policies enacted in other jurisdictions is also given tooutline possible policy options which may be considered by Ireland in the future. Theviews of relevant stakeholders on the impact of the regulatory lacuna are explored inthe second paper through a series of semi-structured interviews. These interviewshighlight a surprising level of consensus on the need for the Irish legislature to actand introduce regulations to provide certainty, in one way or the other, in this area ofscientific innovation. A procedural mechanism is proposed in the third paper whichcould allow the development of policy and concomitant regulation in Ireland in thisarea. It is hoped that the procedural process and resultant framework would besufficiently inclusive as to be acceptable to the majority of people in Irish society.In conclusion, it is argued that it is undesirable that a modern pluralist democracy (asIreland aspires to be) should regard legislative inertia and non-regulation as thepreferred method of dealing with morally challenging scientific endeavour. Instead,appropriate procedural mechanism should be utilised to allow for the development ofapposite policies.
Date of Award31 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDavid Gurnham (Supervisor), John Harris (Supervisor) & Sarah Devaney (Supervisor)


  • Legal vacuum, policies, Constitutional protection

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