Family Rights: Family Law and Medical Advance

Family Rights: Family Law and Medical Advance

Family Rights: Family Law and Medical Advance

Family Rights: Family Law and Medical Advance

Excerpt

There must be very few people who can be indifferent to changes in family patterns. Social theorists, criminologists, politicians, economists, and demographers have all remarked on the way in which changes in patterns of family formation and family life have affected the functioning of society. The nature of the change itself differs in kind and degree from society to society, but what can be observed is a general move from the extended family, by way of the classical mother/father/children unit, to the widely-accepted options of the single parent family or the informal, extra-marital partnership.

The factors behind these changes are diverse, and most of them have been subjected to extensive study. We understand therefore the impact of urbanization and of the effect of the increased absorption of women into the workplace. We know of the effect of changing attitudes towards marriage itself and of the consequences that this has for the rapidly disappearing concept of illegitimacy. And we are familiar, too, with the economic and psychological sequelae of heightened divorce rates. All of these changes, of course, have had a considerable impact on family law, which has over recent decades been one of the most rapidly-developing areas of law.

This book is concerned with a particular set of influences on the family and with the implications of these changes for family law. These influences all result either from developments in the attitude of doctors and patients to medical treatment, or from scientific advances in medicine, particularly in the area of human reproduction. One question runs through all the chapters: how has family law responded to the fact that modern medicine has wrought significant changes in the relationship between parent and child, and between society and the family unit (whatever form the latter may take)?

Undoubtedly the most profound of the changes discussed here are those which affect the circumstances of human reproduction. These range from surrogacy (with or without medical involvement) to highly technical forms of extra-corporeal fertilization and embryo transfer. Two distinct sorts of question arise from these developments -- how should they be regulated and what is the nature of the legal relationships to which they give rise? In the following chapters, these . . .

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