Genetic Interventions and the Ethics of Enhancement of Human Beings

In Bonnie Steinbock (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Bioethics. Oxford University Press. pp. 516--535 (2007)
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Abstract

There has been considerable recent debate on the ethics of human enhancement. A number of prominent authors have been concerned about or critical of the use of technology to alter or enhance human beings, citing threats to human nature and dignity as one basis for these concerns. Frances Kamm has given a detailed rebuttal of Sandel's arguments, arguing that human enhancement is permissible. Nicholas Agar, in his book Liberal Eugenics, argues that enhancement should be permissible but not obligatory. He argues that what distinguishes liberal eugenics from the objectionable eugenic practices of the Nazis is that it is not based on a single conception of a desirable genome and that it is voluntary and not obligatory. This article takes a more provocative position. It aims to argue that, far from its being merely permissible, we have a moral obligation or moral reason to enhance ourselves and our children. Indeed, we have the same kind of obligation as we have to treat and prevent disease. It begins by considering the current interests in and possibilities of enhancement. It then offers three arguments that we have very strong reasons to seek to enhance.

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Julian Savulescu
Oxford University

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