All posts by Helena Bleeker

The Ethics of Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis in Practice: An Analysis of the Feasibility and Ethical Considerations of Applying and Regulating Genetic Enhancement

Author: Helena BLEEKER

Abstract

Pre-Implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) has many therapeutic and enhancement applications. In a previous work, I presented arguments in favour of all types of PGD, whether for medical therapies or human enhancement. These arguments were based on the absence of moral distinctions between genetic therapy and genetic enhancement.

The implication of these arguments is that, if one cannot distinguish between therapy and enhancement on moral grounds, then all PGD applications must be either moral or immoral. Although logically speaking this argument may be true, in practice I believe that it is possible and necessary to draw a line between what is morally permissible and what is not with respect to applications of PGD for genetic enhancement.

In order to draw this line, I move away from analyzing the moral substance of PGD as a technology and focus instead on the moral agents that will employ PGD. As humans, I believe we are both morally accountable and morally unreliable as agents for the use of PGD, and this feature forms the basis of the delineation of acceptable PGD practices.

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The ethics of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis: An opinion piece examining the moral distinction between positive and negative selection of traits using PGD

Author: Helena BLEEKER

Abstract

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) follows in vitro fertilization (IVF) of several ova. Negative selection (NS), or the discarding of embryos containing undesirable alleles, is currently being performed in IVF clinics. Conversely, positive selection (PS) is the discarding of embryos that do not contain a desirable allele. In other words, PS keeps an embryo because it contains a desirable genetic profile.

There are many groups that support NS but there are far fewer who support PS. The bioconservative philosophy, led by philosophers such as Leon Kass, opposes PS and bioliberalism in general. Conversely, NS (and PS) of embryos resonates best of all with the bioliberalism philosophy. More specifically, a subset of bioliberalism, called transhumanism.

In order to find NS morally permissible and PS morally unacceptable, one must support one’s position by making a moral distinction between the two types of selection. The major claims against PS include that it is not medically serious, that it propagates eugenics, that it propagates sex selection and that it elicits a moral repugnance which proves its immorality. In analyzing these arguments, I hope to show that none of them are consistent in their application, and that their inability to be applied universally significantly weakens their case.

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