Conference announcement: IS THE EMBRYO SACROSANCT?

IS THE EMBRYO SACROSANCT? MULTI-FAITH PERSPECTIVES: A conference organised by the Progress Educational Trust, Supported by the Medical Research Council and Clifford Chance. 9.30am-5pm, Wednesday 19 November 2008. Clifford Chance, 10 Upper Bank St, London E14 5JJ.

Representatives of different faiths frequently intervene in debates around fertility and assisted reproduction, with religious perspectives cited in recent months both in support of and in opposition to the UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. But religious attitudes towards the human embryo are not always well understood, and can be counterintuitive. This is particularly true when views of the embryo differ not only between the world’s major religions, but also according to different denominations and traditions within each religion. This conference will focus on the impact of new fertility legislation on individuals of different faiths, and will examine and contrast the attitudes of different faiths towards assisted reproduction. The starting point for discussion will be the question of whether the embryo is sacrosanct – that is, whether and in what circumstances the embryo is considered sacred, inviolable or in any way protected by religious sanction. Implications for practice will be examined in relation to two specific areas – preimplantation genetic diagnosis and sperm and egg donation.
Session 1: IS THE EMBRYO SACROSANCT?

 Chair: BARONESS HALEH AFSHAR (Founder and Chair of the Muslim Women’s Network and Visiting Professor of Islamic Law at the University of Strasbourg)

 Speakers:

– ANIL BHANOT (General Secretary of Hindu Council UK and Trustee of the Council of Ethnic and Minority Voluntary Organisations)

– IVAN BINSTOCK (Dayan [Rabbinic Judge] of the London Beth Din [Court of the Chief Rabbi] and Rabbi at St John’s Wood Synagogue)

 – DAVID JONES (Professor of Bioethics at St Mary’s University College and author of ‘The Soul of the Embryo’)

 – LEE RAYFIELD (Anglican Bishop of Swindon and member of the Gene Therapy Advisory Committee of the UK Department of Health)

 – MUFTI MUHAMMED ZUBAIR BUTT (Senior Adviser on Islamic law at the Institute of Islamic Jurisprudence and Chair of the Al Qalam Shariah Scholar Panel)

 – JOHN HARRIS (Lord David Alliance Professor of Bioethics at the University of Manchester and Editor-in-Chief of the ‘Journal of Medical Ethics’)

 Session 2: FAITH IN PREIMPLANTATION GENETIC DIAGNOSIS

 Chair: ALAN THORNHILL (Scientific Director of the London Bridge Fertility, Gynaecology and Genetics Centre)

 Speakers:

 – YAKOUB KHALAF (Clinical Director of the Assisted Conception Unit at Guy’s Hospital)

 – PETER HARVEY (Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Sunderland and Cofounder of the UK Association for Buddhist Studies)

 – SHEILA BRIGGS (Board Member of Catholics for Choice and Associate Professor of Religion and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California)

 Session 3:

   GAMETE DONATION AND DOCTRINE

 Chair: JONATHAN ROMAIN (Chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK and Rabbi at Maidenhead Synagogue)

 Speakers:

 – STUART LAVERY (Consultant in Gynaecology, Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at Hammersmith and Queen Charlotte’s Hospitals and 92 Harley Street)

 – JAGBIR JHUTTI-JOHAL (Lecturer in Sikh Studies at the University of Birmingham)

 – ANIL BHANOT (General Secretary of Hindu Council UK and Trustee of the Council of Ethnic and Minority Voluntary Organisations)

 – MUFTI MUHAMMED ZUBAIR BUTT (Senior Adviser on Islamic law at the Institute of Islamic Jurisprudence and Chair of the Al Qalam Shariah Scholar Panel)

Tickets: £120; Concessions: £60 (Friends of PET)/£30 (students and unwaged); Send cheques (payable to ‘Progress Educational Trust’) to: Events, Progress Educational Trust, 140 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8AX. A vegetarian lunch and refreshments will be provided on the day. Enquiries: call 0207 278 7870 or email sstarr@progress.org.uk.

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