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France flag.gif
Region Europe
Population 64473140
GDP (millions USD) 2560255
National Policies
Eggs for assisted reproduction commercial allowed
Eggs for research commercial prohibited
Inheritable genetic modification PROHIBITED
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis social uses prohibited
Reproductive cloning PROHIBITED
Research cloning PROHIBITED
Sex selection Social uses prohibited
International Agreements
1997 COE Biomedicine Convention signed
1998 COE Cloning Convention signed
2005 UN Cloning Vote no
2005 UNESCO Sports Doping Convention RATIFIED
2007 Treaty of Lisbon RATIFIED


Key laws and policies

Foundational values

France's Bioethics Law of 2004 articulates three foundational values:

  • Respect for the dignity of the human embryo
  • Respect for all stages of life
  • Human rights

Prohibited practices

The Bioethics Law of 2004 prohibits:

  • Reproductive cloning, which is deemed a crime against the human race; violators may receive jail sentences of up to 30 years and fines of 7.5 million Euros (about $11m)
  • Research cloning, which is punishable by up to 7 years in prison and fines
  • Creation of human embryos for research purposes
  • Inheritable genetic modification
  • "The invasion into the integrity of the human species, eugenic behaviors intended to organize selection of human beings, and conversion of genetic characteristics leading to any change in descendants of humans."[1]
  • Sex selection, except for medical reasons


Surrogate motherhood has been prohibited in France since 1991, under a decision by the Cour de cassation (France’s highest court), (Cass. Ass. plén., 31/05/1991).

The prohibition was confirmed in the bioethics law of 1994, and is codified in article 16-7 of French Civil Code (“Civil Code”). Article 16-9 of the Civil Code makes the prohibition of public order. (In France, prohibitions of ordre public or public order are mandatory rules created unilaterally by the state to protect fundamental values of the society, and from which parties have no freedom to derogate. A foreign law applicable under a conflict of laws analysis would be evicted if contrary to a mandatory rule.)

A surrogacy contract is null and void, and violations are punished by civil and criminal sanctions. (Civil sanctions are described in articles 311-25, 325 and 332-1 of the Civil Code and criminal sanctions at articles 227-12 §3 and 227-13 of the Penal Code.)

Permitted and regulated practices

The Bioethics Law of 2004 gives the French Biomedicine Agency (Agence de la biomédecine) regulatory responsibility for technologies and activities regarding:

  • Reproductive cells
    • Assisted reproductive technologies
      • artificial insemination
      • in vitro fertilization
      • all other non-natural procreation techniques, including gamete donation
    • Storage of human gametes
  • In vitro embryos
    • Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis
    • Storage and donation of human embryos
    • Research on embryos and human embryonic stem cells
  • In vivo embryos and fetuses
    • Prenatal diagnosis
      • chromosome genetic diagnosis (study of the shape and number of chromosomes)
      • molecular genetic diagnosis (research on the DNA structure)
      • biochemical, infectiological, and immunological diagnosis using samples from a fetus, its related tissues or the mother
  • Birth or abortion
    • Cells procured from the blood in the umbilical cord
    • Procurement of tissues and cells from an aborted fetus for transplants or research
  • Living persons
    • Genetic diagnosis on persons with symptoms (cystic fibrosis, Duchennes muscular dystrophy, hemophilia, etc.) or without symptoms (late appearing diseases such as Huntington’s disease)
    • Genetic diagnosis based on predisposition factors (breast cancer) or the study of risks in families
    • Procurement of organs, tissues, and cells
    • Organ, tissue, and cell transplants
  • Deceased persons
    • Procurement of organs, tissues, and cells
    • Storage of tissues and cells

Note French legislation requires that an embryo conceived in vitro must employ the egg or sperm of at least one member of the couple.

Anonymous egg or sperm donation is otherwise permitted.

Donation of eggs or sperm must be gratuitous; the law prohibits any payment.

Embryos conceived by a couple who no longer are going to use them can be donated to another couple on certain conditions. For example, the donation is subject to a decision by the legal authority (formalizing the procedure), which obtains the consent of the couple initially responsible for the conception of the embryo. The principles of anonymity and gratuity also apply.

Regulatory activities

The French Biomedicine Agency conducts these activities regarding assisted reproductive technologies and diagnosis:

  • Authorizes multidisciplinary centers for prenatal diagnosis
  • Authorizes pre-implantation genetic diagnosis centers and approve practitioners
  • Approves biologists to carry out prenatal diagnosis
  • Approves practitioners for clinical and biological activities in assisted reproductive technologies
  • Delivers official opinions on authorizations granted to centers for assisted reproductive technologies
  • Sets up a monitoring scheme for clinical and biological activities associated with assisted reproductive technologies
  • Evaluates activities in assisted reproductive technologies and prenatal and genetic diagnosis
  • Sets up a health monitoring service for women undergoing assisted reproductive technologies, children conceived by this method, and oocyte donors
  • Provides information about gamete donation
  • Authorizes imports and exports of gametes or embryos

The French Biomedicine Agency conducts these activities regarding embryos and embryonic stem cell research:

  • Authorizes researchers who can work on supernumerary embryos from in vitro fertilization that are no longer required by parents, under strict supervision by the Agency
  • Delivers authorizations for importing, storing and disposing of embryo tissues and cells required for research purposes. If the conditions of authorization are not respected, the agency can suspend or withdraw a permit
  • Guarantees the identification and traceability of human embryos used for research, and of embryonic stem cell lines created from these embryos or imported from abroad
  • Controls the authorized activities, with the possibility of carrying out inspections, or of suspending or definitively halting the work
  • After five years’ experience, the agency will evaluate the results and publish a report that will act as the basis for any possible extension of these authorizations

The Agency also oversees organ procurement and transplants:

  • Managing the nationwide list of patients awaiting transplants
  • Managing the national register of those who refuse to be donors
  • Developing the national database of volunteer donors of haematopoietic stem cells
  • Developing rules for distributing donor organs
  • Coordinating organ procurement and their distribution and allocation in France and abroad
  • Evaluating procurement and transplantation activities
  • Organizing expert committees for authorizing procurement from living donors
  • Developing information on donating, procuring, and transplanting organs, tissues, and cells

Accountability and governance

The French Biomedicine Agency is governed by:

  • A Director General "nominated by decree" for three-year renewable terms
  • An executive management board of representatives from different ministries and public health bodies, together with "key figures qualified in the agency’s fields of activity"
  • A steering committee (le conseil d’orientation)

The steering committee supervises the consistency of the Agency’s medical and scientific policy, and alignment with the regulatory and ethical principles applicable to its activities. It comprises:

  • Scientific and medical experts
  • Representatives from associations
  • Qualified key figures
  • Members of different institutions (e.g., the French Consultative Committee for Ethics, and the French Consultative Commission for Human Rights)
  • As well as Members of Parliament

Numerically, it is comprised of:

  • 6 scientists
  • 3 human tissue experts
  • 6 representatives of patient groups
  • 6 social scientists or ethicists

Members are appointed for three-year terms. The steering committee examines every research project or study on the embryo or embryonic stem cells and gives its expert opinion before the decision concerning authorization is taken.

External links

[edit] References

  1. George J. Annas, Lori B. Andrews and Rosario M. Isasi, "Protecting the Endangered Human: Toward an International Treaty Prohibiting Cloning and Inheritable Alterations," American Journal of Law and Medicine (Vol. 28. Nos. 2 & 3, 2002).