Medical ethics

This page highlights some of the current parliamentary material available on medical ethics. This includes select committee reports, briefing papers on current legislation and other subjects produced by the parliamentary research services, and the latest Early Day Motions put down by MPs. Related information can be found under animal experiments.

Commons Briefing Papers

13.10.2015Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill 2015-16
This Commons Library briefing provides information on the main provisions of the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill 2015-16 and on the development of previous legislation on medical innovation (the Bill builds upon provisions in Lord Saatchi's Medical Innovation Bill 2014-15).
01.10.2015Accessing and sharing health records and patient confidentiality
This note sets out current arrangements for accessing and sharing confidential patient information
04.09.2015The Assisted Dying (No 2) Bill 2015
This Briefing Paper is prepared for the Second Reading of the Assisted Dying (No 2) Bill 2015 on 11 September 2015.
29.01.2015Mitochondrial Donation
This note seeks to provide a summary of the role of mitochondria, mitochondrial disease and the proposed new techniques. It will also outline the investigations into these techniques that took place prior to the Government announcement; a HFEA scientific review of the safety and efficacy of methods, an ethical review of the techniques for mitochondrial replacement undertaken by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and an HFEA public consultation. The main safety and ethical considerations associated with the introduction of these techniques into clinical practice will be discussed.
20.08.2014Assisted suicide
This note provides background to the offence of assisting a person to commit suicide under the Suicide Act 1961, in the context of terminally ill people who may be unable to end their lives without the assistance of family or friends. Particular reference is made to the cases of Debbie Purdy, who in July 2009 obtained a House of Lords ruling ordering the Director of Public Prosecutions to formulate an offence-specific policy setting out the factors he will consider when deciding whether to prosecute assisted suicide offences, and Tony Nicklinson. The note also considers the Assisted Dying Bill [HL], a Private Member's Bill introduced by Lord Falconer of Thorogood, which is currently before the Lords.
This note provides information about the introduction of the NHS system and the use of patients' data for research, and about how patients' can opt out of having information from their medical records shared through this system.
18.09.2012Homeopathy and the consolidation of UK medicines legislation
In August 2012 UK medicines legislation (including for homeopathy) was consolidated through the Human Medical Regulations. The law was not changed.
22.02.2011Animal cloning
A number of commentators have raised concerns about the implications of animal cloning for food safety, food supply and animal welfare. Others stress that animal cloning has the potential to improve animal welfare and farming productivity. It may even be used in the conservation of endangered species. This note sets out background information on the different arguments and the regulatory controls on the use of this technology in food production.
17.12.2009Abortion law
A brief outline of the law regulating abortion in the UK. A list of Bills related to abortion is provided in Standard Note PC/03657 and abortion statistics can be found in Standard Note SG/4418.
11.11.2008Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill - What Happened?
This Note describes the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill 2008 through Parliament.

Lords Library Notes

14.11.2007Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill [HL] (HL Bill 6, 2007-08) LLN 2007/007
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. House of Lords Library Note 2007/007


10.09.2015The 100,000 Genomes Project
This POSTnote provides an introduction to genomic medicine and an overview of the aims, structure and major challenges of the 100,000 Genomes Project.
12.06.2015Regulation of Synthetic Biology
Synthetic biology can be defined as the design and engineering of novel biologically-based parts, devices and systems or the redesign of existing biological systems. It may deliver potential benefits across a wide range of applications. However, some future applications may raise social and ethical issues and challenge current regulatory systems.This POSTnote examines the potential benefits and challenges.
26.03.2015Vegetative and Minimally Conscious States
A POSTnote discussing the medical, legal and ethical challenges associated with the care of patients in vegetative and minimally conscious states.
14.10.2014Preventing Mitochondrial Disease
This note describes new treatments designed to prevent mothers with mitochondrial disease passing their condition on to their children and looks at the issues raised by their potential use in IVF.
08.10.2014Palliative and End of Life Care
This POSTnote provides an overview of palliative care and its key components, approaches to managing and standardising care and key challenges to providing high quality care.
A POSTnote that explores the role of biobanks in health research.

Early Day Motions

That this House notes that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) euthanised 28 of its horses in 2011, including four for having a bad temperament; expresses concern that euthanasia is being ...
That this House welcomes the recent publication of the systematic review of the mental health outcomes of induced abortion by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and National Collaborating ...
That this House notes with profound concern the recent report of the United Nations High Commisisoner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, on maternal mortality and human rights (A/HRC/18/27) ...
That this House regrets the abuse of UN funds in publishing the badly researched report of Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, demanding the end of all restrictions ...
That this House welcomes the launch of the San Jose Articles on the Status of the Unborn Child in International Treaties and Law; further welcomes the declaration that in international ...


  • Commons Briefing Papers (CBP) Papers providing in-depth and impartial analysis on every major piece of primary legislation and on other topics of public and parliamentary concern. Regular statistics papers are also published.
  • Early Day Motions (EDMs) - formal motions submitted by MPs in the House of Commons
  • POSTnotes (POST PN) - proactive four-page policy briefings from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology based on reviews of the research literature, interviews with stakeholders and peer review, commissioned by the POST Board
  • Lords Library Notes (LLN) - authored publications by the research section of the House of Lords Library that provide analysis of Bills, subjects for debate in the House and other issues of interest to Members.
  • Select Committee Reports - papers produced by all select committees of both Houses