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Report on Modern Families in Modern Britain conference 22 July - Keynote Mrs Justice Theis DBE

MODERN FAMILIES IN MODERN BRITAIN: IS LAW KEEPING PACE WITH MEDICAL AND RESEARCH ADVANCES? - Report by Dr Julia Brophy

The conference took place on Tuesday 22 July 2014, at St Bride Foundation, Bride Lane, Fleet Street, London EC4, 09.15 – 1700 followed by drinks and canapés

Background

Historically, research on family law and legal practice demonstrates how ‘law’ restricts, legitimates and protects relationships between children and parents (and others), and between parents themselves, and the ‘ethical’, economic and gender based arguments that have underscored practices.

Seminal socio-legal research on the law on marriage and parenthood over some 20 years laid the foundations for a critical perspective on family justice. Advances in reproduction technologies and research on same gender parenting cast a further and equally challenging lens on notions of ‘parenthood’ and notions of children’s welfare and rights in what were once perceived of as ‘unorthodox’ household structures. 

Research demonstrated how ‘law’  lagged behind developments in modern families so that children and parents in such families compared poorly to those in what were (then) termed ‘lawful’ forms of family life rooted in heterosexual marriage and an assumed linear biological link between both parents and their children. 

Equally, the adoption of children in to new family structures continues to present challenges. Since the introduction of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 in England and Wales, the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 and Civil Partnership Act 2005, gay couples have been further enabled to started families through adoption.

New household structures and methods of achieving parenthood pose questions not simply about whether ‘law’ is keeping pace with medical and research evidence, but also about the ethical and economic arguments on which it moves forward and the framework it should provide for the determination of rights and welfare issues where relationships change or breakdown.

This conference built on the 2013 ALC/Hanson Renouf conference in Jersey.  It explored questions of regulation, rights and welfare in the context of clinical and psychological research and identified gaps in information, support and regulation and suggested how some of these might best be addressed. It offered a unique opportunity for delegates to hear from experts in this field from medicine, law and psychology.

Speakers

The Keynote speaker was The Hon Mrs Justice Theis DBE and the day was chaired HHJ Clifford Bellamy DFJ for Leicester, with papers from Deirdre Fottrell on human rights for parents and children, Dr Neil MacLachlan on IVF, Surrogacy and donor parenting, Natalie Gamble on fertility and assisted reproduction law, Fiona Tasker on same gender parenting and John Simmonds on adoption policy and research. 

The day concluded with a multidisciplinary panel discussion in which the speakers were joined by Joanne Anton, Policy Manager, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

Papers

Abstracts of all papers are available now, please email Julia Higgins at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).- Subject line Modern Families - Abstratcs.

If you would like to read the PowerPoint presentations, please email Julia Higgins at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) – Subject line: Modern Families – Papers/PowerPoint followed by the speaker’s name(s)