Designing babies: Morally permissible ways to modify the human genome

Bioethics 9 (1):1–15 (1995)
Abstract
My focus in this paper is the question of the moral acceptability of attempts to modify the human genome. Much of the debate in this area has revolved around the distinction between supposedly therapeutic modification on the one hand, and eugenic modification on the other. In the first part of the paper I reject some recent arguments against genetic engineering. In the second part I seek to distinguish between permissible and impermissible forms of intervention in such a way that does not appeal to the therapeutic/eugenic distinction. If I am right much of what we would intuitively call eugenic intervention will be morally acceptable. Central to my argument is an asymmetry in the way genetic engineers can influence a person's capacities on the one hand and life‐goals on the other. Forms of genetic intervention that have a high probability of producing a mismatch of life‐goals and capacities will be ruled out
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