Philippe Pédrot

Judging What Cannot Be Decided The Body Seized by the Law Publication date : November 18, 2010

Philippe Pedrot is a legal expert specialising in life sciences law and bioethics. He teaches at the European University of Brittany.

Installed at the heart of our society, biomedical technology simultaneously fascinates and disturbs. Some argue that biomedical technology is a harbinger of progress, that it enhances the quality of life, increases individual freedom and attenuates suffering. Others say it turns human beings into superfluous technical objects that are in danger of turning against themselves and destroying their own species.

Acts of transgression, though inherent to the advance of knowledge and technology, should perhaps be limited when they concern the integrity of our life form. And in an area where one transgression tends to lead to another, how far should we go? Can we possibly imagine that some day each individual in our society will be able to freely choose such basic elements as sexual identity, life and death and health, the body and its organs, and genetic characteristics?

• This is a careful study of the cataclysm that biomedical technology has wreaked on procreation, gestation, life and death.

• A reflection on French and European law, their silences and limitations, illustrated by a variety of cases that have made headlines: the right not to be born, argued on behalf of a child who was born severely handicapped; a woman kept artificially alive so that her unborn child could be born; foetuses discarded in a hospital, without proper burial; commercialisation of cells taken from human bodies; rejection of medical treatment on religious grounds; payment of surrogate mothers; assisted suicide, etc.

• It is the urgent responsibility of politics — in the broad sense of the term — to take up the challenge to society that manipulating the human body and human life represents.