By Richard Sandomir
March 29, 2019
Mary Warnock, an Oxford-educated philosopher who helped provide an ethical pathway for Britain to govern its nascent infertility treatment and research industry after the first so-called test-tube baby was born, died on March 20 at her home in Wiltshire, about 75 miles west of London. She was 94.
Her death was announced in Parliament, where she had served in the House of Lords for 30 years. Her son James told the Press Association, a British news agency, that she had died after a fall.
The birth in England in 1978 of Louise Brown, who was conceived through in vitro fertilization, raised a raft of moral and religious questions, none more transcendent than how to regulate the creation of human life in laboratories. There was not yet any oversight of embryological research and infertility treatments, nor was there any consensus about the acceptability of I.V.F., a technique pioneered in Britain.
By the time she was asked by the government to serve as chairwoman of the Committee of Inquiry Into Human Fertilization and Embryology in 1982, Ms. Warnock had taught philosophy at Oxford, written books on metaphysics and existentialism, served on government panels that examined special education and laboratory experimentation using animals, and become a well-known guest on television and radio talk shows.
“The task you set the inquiry was not an easy one,” Ms. Warnock wrote in a letter to government officials that accompanied the committee’s final report in 1984. “The issues raised reflect fundamental moral and often religious questions, which have taxed philosophers and others down through the ages.”...