Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 109–122 | Cite as

Policy Design for Human Embryo Research in Canada: A History (Part 1 of 2)

  • Françoise BaylisEmail author
  • Matthew Herder


This article is the first in a two-part review of policy design for human embryo research in Canada. In this article we explain how this area of research is circumscribed by law promulgated by the federal Parliament (the Assisted Human Reproduction Act) and by guidelines issued by the Tri-Agencies (the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans and Updated Guidelines for Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Research). In so doing, we provide the first comprehensive account of the rules currently governing human embryo research in Canada. In this article we also provide a chronological description of relevant policy initiatives and outcomes related to these policy instruments over the past 20 years, with particular attention to public involvement in policy design. This sets the stage for the second article (scheduled to appear in vol. 6 issue 3) in which we critically analyse the history of policy design for human embryo research in Canada, applying a typology of modes of public consultation developed by Eric Montpetit. Our goal is to carefully explain the various episodes of policy development and their corresponding outcomes, in order to more effectively address emerging questions about the legitimacy of future policy initiatives for human embryo research in Canada.


Embryos Stem cells Research Policy Public consultation 



Thanks are owed to Eric Montpetit and two anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier draft. As well, the text was reviewed for accuracy by Jeff Nisker (past member of the Discussion Group on Embryo Research) and by Francine Manseau (retired federal public servant actively involved in shepherding the AHR Act through the legislative process). Any errors are our own. This work is supported by a research grant from the Australian Research Council (to Susan Dodds) and a salary award from the Canada Research Chairs program (to Françoise Baylis).

Conflicts of interest statement

Françoise Baylis was a member of the CIHR ad hoc Working Group on Stem Cell Research from November 2000 to December 2001 and a member of the CIHR Governing Council from January 2002 to December 2004. She was a Principal Investigator funded by the Stem Cell Network from January 2002 to December 2005. In 2006 she prepared an Expert Opinion for the federal government in the case before the Québec Court of Appeal. Currently she is a member of the Board of Directors of Assisted Human Reproduction Canada. The views expressed herein are her own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dalhousie UniversityNovel Tech EthicsHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.School of LawLoyola University ChicagoChicagoUSA

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