The boundaries of embryo research: Extending the 14-day rule

Caitlin Davis1

1Australian National University

The disciplines of ethics, science and the law often conflict when it comes to determining the limits and boundaries of embryo research. Under current Australian law and regulations, and in various other jurisdictions, research conducted on the embryo in vitro is permitted up until day 14, after which, the embryo must be destroyed. Reproductive technology and associated research is rapidly advancing at a rate that contests current societal and ethical limits surrounding the treatment of the embryo. This has brought about the question of the adequacy of the 14 day rule and whether it is necessary for it be reconsidered and reformed. This paper will highlight some of the tensions that exist in ethics, science and the law in relation to the extension of the rule. It will be concluded that any move to extend the rule must be accompanied by close consultation with the public as the ultimate stakeholders in how the future of reproductive technology is created, constructed and contested.


I am in my fourth year of study at the Australian National University, studying a Bachelor of Arts/Law. Throughout my degree I have developed a strong interest for bioethics and health law. I am particularly interested in how emerging technologies, such as reproductive technologies, can impact upon and interact with our legal system. I evince considerable interest for advocating information with regard to current issues in bioethics and believe it is vital that the community understands how scientific developments are used in an ethical way.  I have aspirations to continue my studies in bioethics as a postgraduate student.

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