A Child's Right to a Decent Future?: Regulating Human Genetic Enhancement in Multicultural Societies

Asian Bioethics Review 4 (4):355-373 (2012)

Robert Sparrow
Monash University
Should significant enhancement of human capacities using genetic technologies become possible, each generation will have an unprecedented power over the next. I argue that it is implausible to leave decisions about the genetic traits of children entirely up to individuals and that communities will sometimes be justified in intervening to protect the interests of children against their parents. While a number of influential authors have suggested that the primary interest that the community should aim to protect is the child’s right to “an open future”, when we examine closely what we desire for our children, it is clear that sometimes we have good reasons to try to restrict their opportunities to pursue dangerous, corrupting, or meaningless projects. Rather than maximise the openness of their future, then, we should strive to ensure that children have access to sufficient opportunities to make available a reasonable range of valuable life-choices. Importantly, both the assessment of what counts as a reasonable range and our judgements about which forms of life are valuable must inevitably make reference to substantive notions about the nature of human flourishing. A more appropriate formulation, then, of what should be protected by law and/or regulation, is the child’s right to a “decent future”, understood as a future which promises a reasonable range of opportunities to lead a life of human flourishing. I then proceed to highlight the challenge posed by the task of settling upon an idea of what counts as a decent future, for multicultural societies wherein ideas about the standards against which we should evaluate human flourishing are likely to be highly contested.
Keywords Human Enhancement   Ethics   PGD   Open future   Regulation   Welfare
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