Foreword by Mary Warnock (Full Text)
- It is a pleasure and a privilege to introduce Norman Ford's book. When I was chairman of the Committee of Enquiry on Human Fertilisation and Embryology1, which reported in 1984, I tried hard to deter members of the Committee from asking the question When does Life Begin?. I thought it an ambiguous and misleading question. The answers to it could be unhelpfully various. Eggs, sperm, even individual cells, could all be said to be human and alive. As I saw it, we had to concentrate on the question when human life becomes morally and legally important. When do we have to ensure that human embryos2 are given the full protection of the law? At what stage in the development of the embryo3 should it be a criminal offence to use it for purposes of research? These were the pragmatic questions we tried to answer, in order to give advice to future legislators.
- Norman Ford, in contrast, insists on raising the question when does an individual human being come into existence. He is interested in, and learned about, the old enigma of 'ensoulment'. But he is determined that the answers to such questions must be based on knowledge. He therefore examines the development of the human embryo4 immediately after fertilisation, using the knowledge that embryology5 now gives us.
- As long as there is a possibility of two embryos6, or none, developing from the loose conglomeration of cells that forms from the fertilised egg, he is not prepared to regard this conglomeration as a single entity. A singular noun is inappropriate for naming the collection of cells at this stage. He therefore cannot regard the pre-14-day embryo7 as a human individual. The answer to his question When did I begin? Is '15 or so days from fertilisation'. It is at that stage that the human individual, of infinite worth, comes into existence.
- I agree with his conclusion. But that is by the way. The true importance of Norman Ford's book lies in his determination to follow the argument wherever it leads: to search out and pursue the truth. His principle is that we must find out, as far as possible, where the truth lies, and then make moral sense of what we find. He succeeds in doing this. The spirit of courage, honesty and moral integrity shines through his book. It is a work of great significance, both for now and for the future.
… Mary Warnock
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