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Embryo Politics: Ethics and Policy in Atlantic Democracies

by Thomas Banchoff Cornell University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 304 pages
AU$82.00 NZ$83.48
Product Status: Title is Print on Demand - May take 4 weeks
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Since the first fertilization of a human egg in the laboratory in 1968, scientific and technological breakthroughs have raised ethical dilemmas and generated policy controversies on both sides of the Atlantic. Embryo, stem cell, and cloning research have provoked impassioned political debate about their religious, moral, legal, and practical implications. National governments make rules that govern the creation, destruction, and use of embryos in the laboratory—but they do so in profoundly different ways.

In Embryo Politics, Thomas Banchoff provides a comprehensive overview of political struggles aboutembryo research during four decades in four countries—the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France. Banchoff's book, the first of its kind, demonstrates the impact of particular national histories and institutions on very different patterns of national governance. Over time, he argues, partisan debate and religious-secular polarization have come to overshadow ethical reflection and political deliberation on the moral status of the embryo and the promise of biomedical research. Only by recovering a robust and public ethical debate will we be able to govern revolutionary life-science technologies effectively and responsibly into the future.

1. The Emergence of Ethical Controversy
2. First Embryo Research Regimes
3. The Ethics of Embryonic Stem Cell Research
4. Stem Cell and Cloning Politics


"Banchoff's historical outline of these debates over embryo research and use is accurate and engaging, showing clearly how the different political backgrounds against which they took place shaped their later contours. He also addresses the difficult moral questions surrounding the moral status of embryos, how the law should respond to this status, and how these questions intersect with the need for biomedical progress where such 'progress depends on research on embryos. This is a very clear, well-written, engaging volume, and one that could be read with profit and interest by anyone curious about what is one of the most pressing debates of the moment. Summing Up: Highly recommended for all readership levels."

Thomas Banchoff is Director of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and Professor in the Department of Government and School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He is the author of The German Problem Transformed: Institutions, Politics, and Foreign Policy, 1945–1995, editor of Religious Pluralism, Globalization, and World Politics and Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism, and coeditor of Religion and the Global Politics of Human Rights and Legitimacy and the European Union: The Contested Polity.