|dc.description.abstract||This doctoral research explores the ways in which UK law engages with
embryonic processes, namely under the Human Fertilisation and
Embryology Act 1990 (as amended).
The research offers a fuller understanding of these elusive and evolving
biological processes, and in particular, how they can, in turn, allow us to
understand legal process and legal regulation more deeply. To do so, the
thesis employs an anthropological concept - liminality - coined by Arnold
van Gennep, which is itself concerned with revealing the dynamics of
process. Liminality may be described as being concerned with the spaces in
between distinct stages of human experience or with the process of
transition between such stages. With this framing of liminality in mind -
which is often characterised as a three-stage process of human experience
- the research is divided into three parts, broadly reflecting the three parts of
van Gennep’s liminal schema: into, through, and out of liminality.
It is argued herein that in regulating the embryo – that is, a processual
liminal entity in itself - the law is regulating for uncertainty. Tracing the legal
governance of the early stages of human life, from its inception to today’s
regulatory frameworks, the research diagnoses a ‘legal gap’ between the
conceptual basis for regulation, and practical ‘realities’ of the 1990 Act (as
amended). In particular, this ‘gap’ is typified by uncertainty surrounding
embryos in vitro, and what this thesis diagnoses as ‘legal stasis’.
In order to situate this novel liminal analysis within existing paradigms,
however, the thesis first frames embryos in vitro as ‘gothic’, building upon
emergent analytical responses to postmodern forms of categorisation. This
framing helps to articulate the nature of, and the reasons for, the
above-mentioned ‘legal gap.’ This framing is nonetheless incomplete without
a liminal lens, as it draws our attention to the dynamics of the processes
occurring within this ‘gap’. It is argued that considering the ‘problem’ in this
manner enables us to move beyond conceptualisation, towards realisation.
The gothic, and the liminal are thus used to critically assess legal
representations of the embryo, and suggests that there are ways in which
the law might better embrace the multiplicity of environments through which
the embryo in vitro can travel, that is, either towards reproductive or
research ends. It is argued that full recognition of these variable, relational
liminal states of the embryo is important for the future of artificial
reproduction and embryo research, and that this does not currently happen.
In order for the law to reflect better the uncertain nature of embryonic
processes, and the technologies that create them, the thesis posits a
nuanced, contextual reframing of the embryo that captures the multiplicity of
embryonic ‘pathways’ available within the 1990 Act (as amended).
The overarching objective of this work is to consider a more coherent and
robust intellectual defence of the ways in which we justify different
treatments of in vitro embryos. It thus proposes a ‘context-based approach’
that embraces the variable, relational pathways already facilitated by the
1990 Act (as amended) in order to lead the embryo (and itself) into, through
and out of liminality.||en
|dc.relation.hasversion||Samuel Taylor-Alexander, Edward Dove, Isabel Fletcher, Agomoni Ganguli-Mitra, Catriona McMillan, and Graeme Laurie, ‘Confronting the Liminal Spaces of Health Research Regulation: Beyond Regulatory Compression’ (2016) 8(2) Law, Innovation and Technology 149.||en