The Exemption that Confirms the Rule: Reflections on Proceduralism and the UK Hybrid Embryos Controversy
Res Publica, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 237-250, 2009
17 Pages Posted: 29 Feb 2012
Date Written: March 29, 2008
This paper provides an interpretation of the licensing provisions envisaged under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 as a model for a rule and exemption-based procedural strategy for the adjudication of potential ethical controversies, and it offers an account of the liberal-democratic legitimacy of the procedure’s outcomes as well as of the legal procedure itself. Drawing on a novel articulation of the distinction between exceptions and exemptions, the paper argues that such a rule and exemption mechanism, while not devoid of attractions, is not immune from the criticisms often levied against procedural approaches to the management of pluralism: it either has to fall back on substantive justification in ways that are not helpful when trying to arbitrate a moral controversy, or it appears justificatorily groundless.
Keywords: Embryology, Proceduralism, Exceptions, Exemptions, Democracy, Law
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