Human Enhancement and the Law: Regulating for the Future

7-8 January 2016, St Anne's College, University of Oxford

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Conference Aims and Themes

The increasing production and use of what can broadly be categorised as ‘human enhancement technologies’ is creating challenges for existing legal frameworks. Examples of these new technologies include pharmacological substances that improve cognition, chemical enhancement in embryo development and hormonal techniques for increasing physical strength. These and similar technologies are not easily accommodated by current laws within individual jurisdictions, nor under EU-wide regulatory instruments and under international law.

The use of these technologies has implications in many legal contexts, particularly the regulation of use by professionals such as pilots and medical practitioners. These technologies will challenge legal conceptions of responsibility (both criminal and civil), as well as requiring new approaches to the regulation of pharmaceuticals and other such technologies.

This conference and resulting special edition of the Journal of Law, Information and Science, will aim to identify the legal issues that arise as a result of these developments in human enhancement technologies. Paper presentations and panel sessions will be directed at exploring the ways in which legal systems — both within jurisdictions and across borders — can and should respond to these issues. Our hope is that in bringing together scholars from a range of relevant disciplines — law, philosophy, politics, sociology and the sciences — the conference will facilitate the development of some answers to the thorny legal challenges enhancement technologies pose.

Challenges to be explored

  • new forms of harm as a result of enhancement technologies
  • whether there might be an obligation to enhance
  • product liability issues
  • the right to bodily integrity and enhancement
  • non-voluntary enhancement
  • implications of enhancement technology for governance
  • implications for the criminal law (incl. criminal responsibility)
  • tort claims for harm as a result of enhancement (or the failure to enhance)
  • regulating access to enhancing technologies
  • genetic enhancement and impact on future generations
  • regulatory approaches to challenges raised by enhancement
  • data protection and device hacking
  • defining enhancement for the purposes of regulation
  • the political dimension to regulating enhancement

Keynote Speakers

Dr Jan-Christoph Bublitz, University of Hamburg

Prof. Ruud ter Meulen, University of Bristol

Prof. Anton Vedder, KU Leuven

Prof. Bert-Jaap Koops, Tilburg University

Prof. Karen Yeung, King's College London

Registration and Submissions have now closed.



Generously supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

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