Human dignity in a comparative perspective: embryo protection regimes in Italy and Germany

Volha Parfenchyk, A.G.F.M. Flos

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In this article, we explore the extent to which a dignitarian ethic can effectively shape regulatory policy in the area of biomedical practices which involve the use of human embryos. Drawing on the comparison of how Italy and Germany deliberated the ways in which assisted reproductive technologies and human embryo stem cell research should be governed, we explore the conditions that affect the potential of a dignitarian ethic to effectively shape countries’ policy on these issues. We argue that two factors substantially affect its success. The first factor is the position of dignitarianism in the country’s bioethical landscape, that is, whether it is the dominant bioethical perspective or competes with other perspectives for regulatory relevance. The second factor is the willingness of the regulators to strike compromises with their opponents if dignitarianism is not the main bioethical perspective and competes with other ethical perspectives for regulatory relevance. Building on our analysis, we conclude by drawing three general patterns of the relationships between countries’ bioethical configurations and their regulatory policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-77
Number of pages33
JournalLaw, Innovation and Technology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • Embryo research
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • assisted reproduction
  • comparative law
  • Human dignity


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