French Law and Foetal Personhood: Reconciling Inconsistencies between Civil and Criminal Law

  • Dr Johnny Michael Sakr
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  • Dr Johnny Michael Sakr

    Sessional Academic at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia; Sessional Academic, University of New England, Armidale, Australia; Adjunct Lecturer, University of Notre Dame, Australia

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The legal personhood of prenatal life has been the subject of intense debate in French law, with differing opinions between criminal and civil law. While French criminal law denies personhood to the foetus, civil law has recognised it as a legal person for the purposes of inheritance and gifts. Furthermore, the French courts allow for the override of a pregnant woman's refusal of medical treatment in exceptional cases, such as those that could save the life of the child about to be born. This seeming inconsistency has raised ethical questions surrounding the onset of life and the criteria for legal personhood. This article proposes a novel legal theory called Foetal Bundle Theory, developed in the author's PhD research, to address this inconsistency. The theory posits that a foetus' personhood is best understood from a Bundle Theory perspective, which contends that legal nonpersons can hold legal rights. This notion presents a challenge to the conventional French understanding of legal personhood, which is based on the idea that personhood is closely linked to the capacity to hold legal rights and obligations. Foetal Bundle Theory offers a new perspective that reconciles the apparent inconsistencies in French law and provides a framework for addressing ethical and legal questions regarding the personhood of the foetus.


Research Paper


International Journal of Law Management and Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 3, Page 2607 - 2623


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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution -NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) (, which permits remixing, adapting, and building upon the work for non-commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited.


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