Does donor conception violate human dignity?

Bioethics 36 (9):957-963 (2022)
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The moral acceptability of anonymous gamete donation remains contested. Although the view that the value of parent–child relationships should not depend on genetic ties is “nearly axiomatic” among philosophers and bioethicists, one well-known dissenter remains: David Velleman. I argue that most rebuttals to Velleman have simply talked past him because they have failed to understand his fundamental point—that donor conception is a violation of human dignity and as such is wrong even if it does not harm individuals. I challenge Velleman on his own terms by endorsing his metaphysical picture before showing that donor conception is not necessarily a violation of human dignity. I show this by arguing that gamete donation is held to a double standard of self-knowledge. I develop an account of the self that recognizes that certain kinds of challenges to one's flourishing can contribute to an individual's strength and self-knowledge. I defend my view against objections that genetic knowledge is categorically different from other ways of knowing oneself and I show that donor conception can respect human dignity as long as it meets certain conditions.



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Olivia Schuman
University of Louisville

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