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Some legal implications of advances in human genetics

Some legal implications of advances in human genetics

Canadian Journal of Genetics and Cytology. Journal Canadien de Genetique et de Cytologie 17(3): 283-296

ISSN/ISBN: 0008-4093

PMID: 1203758

DOI: 10.1139/g75-039

The law which, to some extent at least, reflects contemporary mores, has not kept pace with the recent scientific advances in genetics. Because of the rate of advance in the science of genetics there is a real risk that we shall know how to change the traditional nature of man before we possess the knowledge necessary to enable us to use the new knowledge for humane purposes. Clonal reproduction may produce a creature who, for the purposes of the law, especially the criminal law, which defines when a child becomes a human being in terms of "old-fashioned" motherhood, may not be a human being, so that putting him to death may not be homicide. Similarly, in vitro fertilization and development in an artificial uterus may result in the "birth" of one who, though having human attributes, may not, in law, be a human being. While cloning and in vitro fertilization may not have immediate legal implications because of the state of the art, genetic manipulation in the form of amniocentesis has very real legal implications now because it is a matter of current practice. The assumption that detection of genetic abnormality in the foetus is a beneficial development because it enables parents to have the option of terminating the pregnancy, though valid in the United Kingdom and the United States, is invalid in Canada. Abortion on demand is not part of the law in Canada and the liberalization of the abortion provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada in 1969 expressly avoided including as a criterion for therapeutic abortion the risk that the child, if born, would be likely to suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped. Beyond the more technical issues raised by scientific advances, however, lies the fundamental question whether a handicapped life is a life not worth living.

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Accession: 027411353

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