Law and religion round-up – 25th February

Surrogacy, charity, matrimony, heraldry, privacy, hospitality …

Reforming the law on surrogacy

As we noted at the time, on 14 December the Law Commission for England & Wales announced that one of the subjects to be included in its Thirteenth Programme of Law Reform would be surrogacy. The Scottish Law Commission has also now announced – in almost identical terms – that it, too, will be looking at surrogacy as part of its Tenth Programme and will do so in a joint project with the Law Commission for England and Wales. Continue reading

“Three-parent babies” in UK from 2017?

Progress towards the application of mitochondrial donation

Following the 15 December announcement by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) that it had approved “the cautious use of mitochondrial donation in treatment”, we reviewed the progress since our October 2015 post, “Three-parent babies” in UK from today? and the further steps that are necessary before mitochondrial donation can is finally applied in practice in the UK. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 7th February

“Brexit”, an unexpected snag in the Ashers Bakery case, further documentation on the George Bell saga – and an impending drought at the House of Commons?

In or out?

Much the biggest news of the past week was the draft proposal circulated by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, in response to the UK’s request for renegotiation of the terms of its EU membership. It will be considered in detail by the 27 other members states ahead of the European Council meeting on 18-19 February.

“Gay cake” row remains unresolved

On Wednesday the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland announced that the appeal against DJ Brownlie’s judgment in Lee v Ashers Baking Co Ltd & Anor [2015] NICty 2 has been adjourned for three months, following a last-minute intervention by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John Larkin QC, on the issue of compatibility between Northern Ireland’s equality legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights. At a short hearing in the Court of Appeal Morgan LCJ, in a polite judicial understatement, described the lateness of the intervention as “most unfortunate”.

For a thoughtful reflection on the issue see Nick Spencer of Theos: Storm in a Gay Cake Tin. We aren’t sure we agree with him but, as Frank observed elsewhere, the balance between free speech and hate/offensive speech is an incredibly difficult one to strike – and it’s not clear we’ve managed to strike it yet. Continue reading

Approval for new “gene editing” techniques

Further progress in “gene editing” emphasizes the pressing need for a wider debate

On 1 February 2016, the Francis Crick Institute announced that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) had approved a research application to use new “gene editing” techniques known as “Crispr/Cas9” to modify human embryos.

The Press Release states: Continue reading

Religion and law round-up – 13th September

A week of complex legislative issues: assisted dying, genome editing, canonical marriage annulment, and “Purdah” and the European referendum

Assisted Dying (No. 2) Bill

The big news of the week was that Rob Marris’ Private Member’s Bill – the Assisted Dying (No. 2) Bill – was heavily defeated on second reading, by 330 votes to 118 – a majority of 212: you can read the debate here. Reactions were inevitably mixed: the Church of England issued a statement in which the Bishop of Carlisle, lead bishop on health care issues, said that the Church was “heartened” that MPs had decided not to change the law. The British Humanist Association, on the other hand, recalling that the Supreme Court had declared that it was willing to consider whether the lack of a right to die breached the European Convention on Human Rights but thought that Parliament should first have the opportunity to legislate on the matter, said that “the fight on assisted dying must now return to the courts”.

European Referendum Bill

The other major parliamentary news was the House of Commons report and third reading stages of the European Referendum Bill on Monday 7 September 2015. Mark D’Arcy, the BBC’s Political Correspondent, noted that “anti-EU Tories have been organising furiously to ensure that their forces are marshalled. And in an amendment paper of fiendish complexity there is a galaxy of proposed changes to the legislation”. Continue reading

Genome editing of human cells

Scientists call for public debate on altering DNA to prevent diseases

On 2nd September, a group of leading UK research funders issued a statement calling for an urgent national debate on the ethics of genetically modifying human embryos and other tissues to prevent serious diseases. The group, comprising the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Association of Medical Research Charities and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council:

  • supports the continued use of CRISPR-Cas9 and other genome-editing techniques in preclinical research, which includes the use of the technology for research purposes in human reproductive cells and early embryos, where this is fully justified, scientifically and ethically, and within the confines of the law;
  • states that it will continue to fund and support research of this kind, as well as studies that further progress and refine these technologies; and
  • calls for widespread discussion among scientists, ethicists and the wider public about how these emerging techniques may in future be applied clinically, in human reproductive cells and early embryos, to treat or prevent serious genetic disease.

Continue reading

Art. 8, embryo donation and scientific research: Parrillo v Italy

The issue

Italian Law no. 40/2004 of 19 February 2004, which makes experiments on human embryos punishable by between two and six years’ imprisonment, prohibited Ms Parrillo from donating to scientific research embryos obtained from in vitro fertilisation that were not to be implanted in her: instead, she was obliged to keep them in a state of cryopreservation until their death. Her requests for the release of her embryos so that she could donate them for research were therefore refused.

She submitted that the embryos had been obtained before Law no. 40/2004 had come into force and, therefore, that it had been entirely legal for her to have them preserved rather than proceeding with immediate implantation. She complained that the ban on her donating them for research violated Article 1 of Protocol No 1 ECHR (protection of property) and Article 8 (private and family life). On 28 January 2014 the Chamber to which the case had been assigned relinquished jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber.

Continue reading