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   Case summaries      R v S of S for Health ex parte Quintavalle


R v S of S for Health ex parte Quintavalle (on behalf of Pro-Life Alliance) [2003] 2 WLR 692 House of Lords

The Pro Life Alliance argued that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority did not have authority to licence research with regards to cloning. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 granted the Authority the right to licence research with regards to embryos. An embryo was defined in the Act as ‘a live human embryo where fertilisation is complete’. However, embryos  created using cloning are not fertilised.


The House of Lords held that the cloned embryos were covered by the statute taking a purposive approach to statutory interpretation.

Lord Bingham:

"The court's task, within the permissible bounds of interpretation, is to give effect to Parliament's purpose. So the controversial provisions should be read in the context of the statute as a whole, and the statute as a whole should be read in the historical context of the situation which led to its enactment….While it is impermissible to ask what Parliament would have done if the facts had been before it, there is one important question which may permissibly be asked: it is whether Parliament, faced with the taxing task of enacting a legislative solution to the difficult religious, moral and scientific issues mentioned above, could rationally have intended to leave live human embryos created by CNR outside the scope of regulation had it known of them as a scientific possibility. There is only one possible answer to this question and it is negative."
Back to lecture outline on the purposive approachto statutory interpretation