Why we are not morally required to select the best children: A response to Savulescu

Bioethics 22 (7):364-369 (2008)
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The purpose of this paper is to review critically Julian Savulescu's principle of 'Procreative Beneficence,' which holds that prospective parents are morally obligated to select, of the possible children they could have, those with the greatest chance of leading the best life. According to this principle, prospective parents are obliged to use the technique of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to select for the 'best' embryos, a decision that ought to be made based on the presence or absence of both disease traits and non-disease traits such as intelligence. While several articles have been written in response to Savulescu's principle, none has systematically explored its philosophical underpinnings to demonstrate where it breaks down. In this paper I argue that the examples that Savulescu employs to support his theory in fact fail to justify it. He presents these examples as analogous to PGD, when in fact they differ from it in subtle but morally relevant ways. Specifically, Savulescu fails to acknowledge the fact that his examples evoke deontological and virtue ethics concerns that are absent in the context of PGD. These differences turn out to be crucial, so that, in the end, the analogies bear little support for his theory. Finally, I lay out the implications of this analysis for reproductive ethics.



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