Duncan Wilson
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‘Where to draw the line?’
Mary Warnock, embryos and moral expertise
in The making of British bioethics

The political enthusiasm for external oversight was made clear in 1982 when officials at the Department for Health and Social Security (DHSS) broke from the longstanding reliance on scientific and medical expertise. It prioritised 'an outside chairman' for their public inquiry into in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and embryo experiments. Mary Warnock's appointment as chair of the IVF inquiry provided her with the chance to engage with practical affairs and led other philosophers to view bioethics as the most profitable branch of what Peter Singer called 'applied ethics'. While the Warnock committee, the press, scientists and politicians all agreed on the need for external oversight, there was less consensus when it came to deciding specific policies for embryo research. While the Warnock committee was disagreeing over embryo research, Robert Edwards used the prospect of moral disagreement to revive his opposition to outside involvement with science and medicine.

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