Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 December 2021
Graeme Laurie’s notion of reflexive governance, rooted in learning from experiences as issues arise, reminds us that the future is built upon past lessons. This chapter looks to the past better to understand our present and future. It begins with the past, examining the complex interaction of law, ethics and science through the prism of three types of human rights: the rights of children and decisionally vulnerable adults, the right to benefit from scientific advancement, and the rights of future generations. It traces the maturation of each from humble beginnings to playing an increasingly central role in biomedical research policy-making. It then turns to the future, largely uncertain but nevertheless responding to the past and the present. It contends that the future of policy-making is partly in the debates spurred by advances in epigenomics and microbiomics, human heritable genome editing, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Each has put our policy-making legacy to the test, illustrating how new ethical paradigms build upon older ones. It concludes by reflecting on the role that biomedical research policy plays in ensuring that science serves the interests of humanity above all else.