Is the Embryo Sacrosanct? Multi-Faith Perspectives

Progress Educational Trust
Clifford Chance, 10 Upper Bank Street, London E14 5JJ
19 November 2008

The 2008 annual conference of the Progress Educational Trust (PET), supported by Clifford Chance and the Medical Research Council.

Representatives of different faiths frequently intervene in debates around fertility and assisted reproduction, with religious perspectives cited both in support of and in opposition to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. But religious attitudes towards the human embryo are not always well understood, and can be counterintuitive. This is particularly true when views of the embryo differ not only between the world's major religions, but also according to different denominations and traditions within each religion.

This conference focused upon the impact of new fertility legislation on individuals of different faiths, and examined and contrasted the attitudes of different faiths towards assisted reproduction. The starting point for discussion was the question of whether the embryo is sacrosanct - that is, whether and in what circumstances the embryo is considered sacred, inviolable or in any way protected by religious sanction. Implications for practice were examined in relation to two specific areas - preimplantation genetic diagnosis and sperm and egg donation.

The conference was discussed on the website of the Guardian newspaper by Andrew Brown and Jackie Leach Scully.


Session 1

Is the Embryo Sacrosanct?


Session 2

Faith in Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis


Session 3

Gamete Donation and Doctrine


    Partners and supporters

  • Clifford Chance

  • Medical Research Council