Report of the Committe of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Warnock Report)

Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology
Known as the Warnock Report, this document primarily deals with issues surrounding in-vitro fertility treatments in the UK. However, it also includes recommendations on related matters of research on human gametes and embryos. One of the many consequential features of the Warnock Report was its advocacy of a fourteen-day limit on the culture of human embryos, the “14-day rule” that eventually made its way into UK law. “We accordingly recommend,” write Mary Warnock and her colleagues, “that no live human embryo derived from in vitro fertilisation, whether frozen or unfrozen, may be kept alive, if not transferred to a woman, beyond fourteen days after fertilisation, nor may it be used as a research subject beyond fourteen days after fertilisation” (1984:66). This recommendation draws a solid ontological and ethical line between “pre-embryos” younger than two weeks old and potentially human embryos two weeks old or older. This line eventually acquired legal status and served as a global precedent for other efforts to settle the uncertain status of embryos as scientific, political, and ethical entities.