The fallacy of the principle of procreative beneficence

Bioethics 23 (5):265-273 (2009)
Abstract
The claim that we have a moral obligation, where a choice can be made, to bring to birth the 'best' child possible, has been highly controversial for a number of decades. More recently Savulescu has labelled this claim the Principle of Procreative Beneficence. It has been argued that this Principle is problematic in both its reasoning and its implications, most notably in that it places lower moral value on the disabled. Relentless criticism of this proposed moral obligation, however, has been unable, thus far, to discredit this Principle convincingly and as a result its influence shows no sign of abating. I will argue that while criticisms of the implications and detail of the reasoning behind it are well founded, they are unlikely to produce an argument that will ultimately discredit the obligation that the Principle of Procreative Beneficence represents. I believe that what is needed finally and convincingly to reveal the fallacy of this Principle is a critique of its ultimate theoretical foundation, the notion of impersonal harm. In this paper I argue that while the notion of impersonal harm is intuitively very appealing, its plausibility is based entirely on this intuitive appeal and not on sound moral reasoning. I show that there is another plausible explanation for our intuitive response and I believe that this, in conjunction with the other theoretical criticisms that I and others have levelled at this Principle, shows that the Principle of Procreative Beneficence should be rejected.
Keywords screening  procreative beneficence  discrimination  disability  eugenics  impersonal harm  reproductive autonomy
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DOI 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2008.00655.x
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References found in this work BETA

One Principle and Three Fallacies of Disability Studies.J. Harris - 2001 - Journal of Medical Ethics 27 (6):383-387.
Is There a Coherent Social Conception of Disability?J. Harris - 2000 - Journal of Medical Ethics 26 (2):95-100.
Procreative Beneficence and the Prospective Parent.P. Herissone-Kelly - 2006 - Journal of Medical Ethics 32 (3):166-169.

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Citations of this work BETA

Causing People to Exist and Saving People's Lives.Jeff McMahan - 2013 - The Journal of Ethics 17 (1-2):5-35.
Procreative Beneficence, Intelligence, and the Optimization Problem.Ben Saunders - 2015 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 40 (6):653-668.
Is Procreative Beneficence Obligatory?B. Saunders - 2015 - Journal of Medical Ethics 41 (2):175-178.

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