Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A Reply on the Constitutional Status of Embryos

This is a reply by Nathan Gibbs, a lecturer in law at the university of Limerick, to my post on the Constitutional Dilemma of Embryos.

In an earlier piece, Lorenzo Zucca explains the problem of ‘compromise legislation’ on contested issues. He exemplifies this problem with reference to Italian regulation of stem cell research.

I would like to add a rejoinder to the effect that such ‘compromise legislation’ may represent a viable ‘second-best’. I would argue that the lack of direct regulation does not necessarily imply that the legal system does not have to make adjustments in the face of such controversial issues. Litigation and even prosecutions may create a stimulus in favour of legal solutions to contestations over novel and controverted social practices like stem cell research. The provision of a solution may well have subtle effects on the overall scheme of concepts, categories and norms employed by the legal system.

There could also be unpredictable consequences for other social practices in the light of such changes in the overall ‘software’ of the legal system. Arguably specific legislation can be a way of ‘sealing off’ these problems in such a manner as to constrain their disruptive effects.

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