Regulating the ‘Brave New World’: ethico-legal implications of the quest for partial ectogenesis    

Year of award: 2017


  • Elizabeth Romanis

    University of Manchester

Project summary

Partial ectogenesis (PE), the transfer of a foetus from the maternal womb to an artificial womb mid-gestation so that it can develop to term, is already a partial reality. Advances in neonatal intensive care have made it possible for the fetus to survive outside the womb from an earlier stage and scientists have begun developing artificial wombs built using human stem cells. This will have huge implications, including a better survival rates for premature babies.

More radical research is proposed and there are pregnant women willing to consent to experimental PE. I will explore key ethico-legal questions surrounding PE trials using human subjects, with the primary objective of evaluating the extent to which the law protects vulnerable parties and how this research should be regulated. I will examine PE’s legality, the extent to which the law sufficiently protects pregnant women and foetuses involved in research trials, and explore whether radical research on the foetus is justifiable. I will also look at how pregnant women might be protected from coercion and what would be the ideal regulatory system for research trials involving reproductive technologies.