Looking Backward to Look Forward

By U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Looking Backward to Look Forward:  Sustaining the Achievements of the Oviedo Convention  in an Era of Genetic Manipulation Applying Nanotechnologies


Dr. Ilise L  Feitshans  JD and ScM and DIR

Former Guest Researcher at NCRWE Copenhagen

Legal Advisor for the Greek National Platform on Nanomedicine


Executive Director The Work Health and Survival Project USA AND SWITZERLAND

Swiss 0041 79 836 3965  USA  917 239 9960     forecastingnanolaw@gmail.com

            Author, Council of Europe Handbook for Parliamentarians on the

Ratification of the Convention Preventing Medicrime

(English and french versions available on the web coe.int)

MS-JD  Writer in residence on international Law


Award Recipient MS-JD SUPERWOMEN- JD conference 2016

Expert on Nanotechnology for PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe)

Author of several books and hundreds of published articles about health, technology, nanotechnology, education, disability, assistive technology for people with disabilities




Looking Backward to Look Forward:  Sustaining the Achievements of the Oviedo Convention  in an Era of Genetic Manipulation Applying Nanotechnologies

ABSTRACT 298 words

Protecting human rights concerning genetically related aspects of biomedicine has been effectively addressed by the Oviedo Convention. Marvelous achievements nonetheless require ancillary législation to promote coherent Paneuropean policies for implementation by national governments and locally.  Given the achievements of this Convention, it is important to sustain these achievements in the near future. But, scientific realities, not envisioned at the time of its writing turn bioethics upside down: Frozen eggs and remarkably accurate in vitro harvesting  impact choices and decisions about human reproduction, including the spectrum of embryos that will be considered viable for new parents to raise. Nanotechnology plays a major role in this sweeping social change, bringing new approaches to physical properties of matter, new uses of human stem cells from oneself and ultimately new definitions of key legal terms. Nanotechnology and nano-enabled treatments are being developed for synthetic organs, grown from the patient’s own stem cells. This may reduce significantly traffiking in human organ transplants, once the price of grow-your-own organs becomes commercially marketable, but without attention to bioethical concerns about prolonging life, and who decides. It is also not difficult to imagine that people will be able to use their own stem cells to create eggs or sperm, and thus have only one parent for a newborn child, who will be completely of their choosing if not design, with their genetic imprint plus a few alterations via gene therapies or fetal surgery in an artificial womb. Therefore it is unclear whether Convention will apply or place limits on genetic tinkering made possible using nanotechnology. This presentation offers a retrospective summary relating to the Convention’s achievements regarding genetics and biomedicine, suggests future challenges to sustaining the impact of those achievements and offers a glimpse of the potential synthesis of existing law as applied to new developments.


Bio sketch

Dr ilise L Feitshans  devoted her Masters of Science thesis to exploring decisionmaking concerning genetic testing during pregnancy for Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.  As a student, she had the honor and good luck to be part of one of the very first Ethical Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) working groups: a multidisciplinary group of legal scholars geneticists bench researchers ethicists economists sociologists and medical anthropologists. Ilise was tasked to examine the right to know the right not to know and to refuse treatment or testing (for example in the case of individuals whose family members have Huntington’s Disease, the working group included Dr Nancy Wexler who discovered the Huntington’s gene and proved that the disease occurs in women as well as men); genetic privacy ; legal questions about  who owns genetic information and also to draft the necessary legislation  proposed to prevent genetic discrimination. Her thesis was based on work for the US government National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the Human Genome Project while teaching Legislation and Legislative Development of the Law at Columbia University School of Law in the City of New York and predicted surprisingly accurately the gaps that needed attention in the legal framework regulating genetic research experimentation on humans and commercializaction.


Many  of the issues that she predicted would be important for legislation (such as preventing genetic discrimination) became the subject of new  law such as GINA  the Genetic Information Non Discrimination Act under USA federal law in 2008. .  Ilise’s  most recent research and legislative work for the Council of Europe and elsewhere has focused on Nanotechnology which is the newest tool for genetic manipulation and biomedicine. Her report to PACE, Council of Europe, Report to the Parliamentary Assembly, Accepted April 26 2013, “Nanotechnology: Balancing benefits and risks to public health and the environment”  http://assembly coe .int/ASP/NewManager/EMB_NewsManagerView.asp?ID=8693&L=2 followed by her doctoral thesis that was awarded the prize for the Best Research InSocial Medicine andPrevention in the University of Luasnanne in 2014 provide the cornerstone for her new book





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