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Societal Decision Making and the New Eugenics
  • Michael J Selgelid, The Australian National University
Suppose we accept prenatal diagnosis and the selective abortion of fetuses that test positive for severe genetic disorders to be both morally and socially acceptable. Should we consider prenatal diagnosis and selective abortion (or other genetic interventions such as preimplantation diagnosis, genetic therapy, cloning, etc.) for nontherapeutic purposes to be acceptable as well? On the one hand, the social aim to promote liberty in general, and reproductive liberty in particular, provides reason for thinking that individuals should be free to make their own decisions about whether or not to employ whatever genetic services might be developed and offered by private enterprise. On the other hand, interventions aimed at enhancement would (in many cases) presumably only be available to those who are financially fortunate. A worry is that unequal access to enhancements that provide competitive advantages to offspring will further and more permanently increase existing unjust disparities between the haves and have-nots. The aim to promote liberty might thus conflict with the social aim of equality. An additional worry is that the development and provision of nontherapeutic genetic interventions would drain limited medical resources away from therapeutic purposes which would ultimately be more fruitful. The promotion of liberty might also thus conflict with the aim to promote aggregate utility. Assuming there is no reason to think that the promotion of liberty should be given absolute priority over both equality and aggregate utility, we need to think more about how to make trade-offs between these three legitimate social aims. There is reason to think that equality is especially important in the context of health care. Restrictions might thus be warranted.
  • ethics,
  • genetics,
  • enhancement,
  • liberty,
  • equality,
  • utility
Publication Date
April, 2002
European Academy
European Academy
Grey Series
1435-487 X
Citation Information
Michael J Selgelid. Societal Decision Making and the New Eugenics. Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, GermanyVol. 30 (2002)
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