Baroness R. Deech Lecture – Review
On Friday the 8 November, Old Blue Baroness Ruth Deech came to Christ’s Hospital to deliver a lecture on ‘Creating the Humans of our Choice – Science and Control.’ Baroness Ruth Deech is a British academic, lawyer, bioethicist and politician. She chaired the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) from 1994 to 2002 and is the former Principal of St Anne’s College, Oxford.
Grecian (Year 13) pupil Lucinda wrote the below review on Baroness Deech’s lecture:
To say that the lecture given by Baroness Ruth Deech on ‘Creating the Humans of our Choice’ was as interesting as it was entertaining, would be to deny her the true appreciation for what was an utterly insightful and thought-provoking evening. We live in a time where science and technology have afforded us benefits beyond any previous comprehension and thus find ourselves on the edge of a potentially slippery slope; falling victim to the excitement of the power we now have over the creation of life itself and forgetting our moral standing in the process.
Baroness Deech approached the subjects of In Vitro Fertilisation and genetic modification of embryos with the object to improve the life of a child and benefit other lives in the future. She did this in a way that made clear not only the complexities of the science involved, but the legal and social issues as well. If given free reign over the modifications and experimentation that are allowed to occur, we could find ourselves in a world where children can be designed, and chosen, based on looks, intelligence or physical abilities; undermining our worth as unique individuals.
By presenting us with real case studies, students were taken through the process of navigating the difficult decisions faced by authorities such as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), for which Baroness Deech was the chair for 8 years. It soon became apparent that there is rarely a simple answer and what may initially seem like a good option for one issue, may result in many other ethical issues such as unused embryos, or preferential treatment due to gender or disability.
Leading by way of example, Baroness Deech shows that any real, truly beneficial advancement requires inputs from all fields of knowledge; she encourages us to be more perceptive when making the decisions of the future, in order to maintain a stable and morally sound society. Moreover, she proves that regardless of the plans we may have for ourselves – as students preparing to make decisions about our future – life often finds a way to interfere. She herself struggled during her time at Hertford, and it wasn’t until later in life that she discovered that the values instilled in her benefitted her in ways she could never have predicted. By approaching each situation with the consideration and open-mindedness she demonstrates, we could well find ourselves on the forefront of the next big breakthrough.