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Destruction, creation and immortality : Australian public policy and nascent human life


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Doherty, Bridget Theresa (2010) Destruction, creation and immortality : Australian public policy and nascent human life. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis examines the public policy outcomes in Australia in two distinct but
related policy domains; Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) and Embryonic
Stem Cell (ESC) research and cloning. Central to each policy domain is an
important actor; the extra uterine human embryo. Without the surplus embryos
created by default through ART, ESC research would not have eventuated. The
possibility of cloned human embryos through Somatic Cell Nuclear Transplant
(SCNT) technology represents the ultimate in ART. Each of these policy domains
are characterised by divisive and irresolvable ethical conflicts over the moral
status of the embryo or what it means to be human in the 21st Century. Each
policy domain is also characterised by technological innovations which require
policy solutions to new and complex policy problems. The central dilemma is how
to elucidate policy when the problems are multidimensional, grounded in
medicine, science and technology and deep conflicts over values exist.
The standard response of disaggregating complex policy issues into their
constituent components and referring them to a technocratic elite for solution is
unsatisfactory because the essential contestation is not over facts but over values.
In each of these policy arenas, there are multiple actors who form distinct
coalitions to promote a particular policy stance. The policy stances however are
not informed by shared beliefs and values. Rather the policy outcomes emerge
from the contest between competing narratives which allow interests with
different values and beliefs to come together around a shared storyline.
Hajer's Discourse Coalition framework was used to identify the interests,
discourses and narratives operating in each policy domain. In ART, particular
health, science, ethics and industry interests form a discourse coalition around the
dominant narrative of hope to promote public policies allowing increasingly wider
access to ART for the involuntary childless. In this policy arena the extrauterine
embryo is ambiguously constructed as both the desired child and a quality
product. In the Australian context, ART policy remains within the private sphere
of reproduction and the health policy domain under the jurisdiction of State and
Territory governments despite efforts to place it on the national policy agenda.
In ESC research and cloning, specific ethical, health and wellbeing, science and
industry interests form a discourse coalition around the dominant narrative of
'saviour science' to promote a relatively permissive policy position on embryo
research and therapeutic cloning. The embryo moves out of the private sphere of
reproduction into the public sphere of international biotechnology, and is
thoroughly commodified as a scientific and economic resource. The ESC policy
domain requires a national policy response because it impacts on Australia as a
scientific innovator and producer in the globally competitive biotechnology arena.
Thus, two very different policy outcomes emerge despite a shared essential actor
in the extrauterine embryo.
The Discourse Coalition approach provides an alternative analysis of policy issues
with seemingly irresolvable conflicts. It also provides a potential alternative
policy making paradigm that allows interests with different norms and belief systems to form policy coalitions around a shared narrative to advance a particular
policy position without sacrificing their underlying values.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Human reproductive technology, Human embryo, Embryonic stem cells
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2010 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
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Additional Information:

Available for use in the Library but NOT for copying until 1 March 2012. After that date, available for use in the Library and copying in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968, as amended. Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2010. Includes bibliographical references. Ch. 1. Introduction -- Ch. 2. Frameworks of analyses: interests, beliefs, values and discourses -- Ch. 3. Assisted reproduction technology -- Ch. 4. Embryonic stem cell research and cloning -- Ch. 5. Interests, narratives and discourse coalitions -- Ch. 6. Conclusion

Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2014 00:14
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:53
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