Jeffrey Wale “Framing Informational Rights and Wrongs for the Future Person”

Wednesday 20 October 2018, 14:00 – Room CG 13 (Christchurch House)

Does it matter whether we frame challenges to ‘informational interests’ using the narrative of rights or wrongs? This paper explores the reasons for using and adopting specific narratives and approaches utilising early human development as the primary context. When an entity occupies or has ‘liminal’ status – where the ontological features are contested and the physical/ psychological state is transformative – it creates a dilemma for legal actors and ethicists alike. The development of the human embryo provides such an example. If an entity is ascribed or conferred legal and moral rights, it may produce tension or conflict with the rights of ostensible moral agents directly affected by that developing entity. Whilst those tensions and conflicts might be eased, they are unlikely to be resolved or compromised via a rights’ based narrative. Framing the dilemma as a potential wrong to the liminal or future entity may help ease that tension without the need to positively assert infringement of an existent right. The global expansion of genetic and other screening technologies brings the possible informational interests of the future person sharply into focus. Should the future person be able to assert (whether on their own behalf or via a proxy) an informational interest in relation to information that was procured whilst that entity was in a liminal status? Can that same entity assert an interest in respect of 3rd party requests for their genetic information? In earlier work, these issues have been explored in the context of a right to know and not know information about the current and future self. This paper argues that there might be compelling reasons to develop and frame these informational challenges and narratives in a particular way.

The seminar is part of the InfoSoc Research Seminars Series of the Law Department.


Jeffrey Wale is Lecturer in Law at Bournemouth University