Human capabilities, mild autism, deafness and the morality of embryo selection

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 16 (4):817-824 (2013)

A preimplantation genetic test to discriminate between severe and mild autism spectrum disorder might be developed in the foreseeable future. Recently, the philosophers Julian Savulescu and Guy Kahane claimed that there are strong reasons for prospective parents to make use of such a test to prevent the birth of children who are disposed to autism or Asperger’s disorder. In this paper we will criticize this claim. We will discuss the morality of selection for mild autism in embryo selection in a hypothetical in vitro fertilization (IVF) situation where preimplantation genetic diagnosis is performed and compare this with a similar selection for congenital deafness. To do this we first discuss relevant human differences. We then introduce the principle of human capabilities (PC) and compare this principle with the principle of procreative beneficence (PB) introduced by Savulescu and Kahane. We apply the two principles to selection for mild autism and selection for congenital deafness. We argue that PC allows for the selection for mild autism but rules out selection for congenital deafness. PB will not give clear answers; the ruling of PB depends to a large extent on expected social, cultural and political developments. We will argue that PC is preferable to PB. We will discuss arguments for the value of mild autism for individuals who have this condition and argue that they are able to lead a life with human dignity provided autism-friendly social circumstances are present. Neither PC nor PB yields strong reasons for prospective parents to seek to prevent the birth of children who are disposed to mild autism spectrum disorder
Keywords Autism  Reproduction  Genetic selection  Ethics  Human capabilities  Procreative beneficence  Quality of life
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DOI 10.1007/s11019-013-9464-6
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The Future of Human Nature.Jurgen Habermas - 2004 - Philosophy 79 (309):483-486.
The Extreme Male Brain Theory of Autism.Simon Baron-Cohen - 2002 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 6 (6):248-254.

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