By Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC
Bioedge published a good article this week discussing the claim by some bioethicists that parents be required to use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to eradicate unwanted heritable conditions. From “Parents Have a Duty to Use IVF, Say Bioethicists:”
Janet Malek, of East Carolina University, and Judith F. Daar, of Whittier Law School, in California, argue that eventually the law should and will impose “a duty on IVF-reproducing parents to maximize the well-being of their future offspring by all reasonable means.” Why? The authors cite three reasons: increasing the child’s well-being, expanding his or her self-determination, and reducing inequalities.
If this reasoning evokes the notorious “after-birth abortion” article, this may be because the authors rely upon ground broken by Julian Savulescu, Guy Kahane and John Harris, three utilitarians working in Britain who influenced the authors of the previous article. The British bioethicists are pushing “procreative beneficence” — the notion that parents should endow their baby with the best possible qualities. Malek and Daar argue that this is morally good not only because it has good consequences (ie, stronger, healthier, more intelligent kids) but it also promotes fairness and autonomy.
The immediate concern is what to do for parents who are carriers of a severely disabling disorder like autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease. It seems clear enough to Malek and Daar that these parents are morally obliged to sift through embryos to find one which does not have the disease:
“prospective parents who make an independent decision to reproduce using IVF and who know or reasonably should know they are at substantial risk for transmitting a serious genetic anomaly to their offspring may be subject to legal liability for failing to utilize PGD to avoid birthing a child who suffers grave harm from the heritable condition.”
Here we have been told that the proposed new eugenics would be okay, unlike the bad old eugenics, because it would be based on “choice” rather than societal coercion. Right. You know the saying about a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you . . .
Bottom line: Once we deny human exceptionalism and presume the right to “improve” the human herd, it may start with “choice” but that is not where it ends. Nor, would the practice be limited to extreme genetic conditions. That’s just the launching pad. Indeed, in matters such as this, diversity, true equality, and freedom are the last things that matter.