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Human Genetic Selection and Enhancement

Parental Perspectives and Law

Marta Soniewicka and Wojciech Lewandowski

Among all human practices, procreation seems the most paradoxical. It starts as a fully personal choice and ends with the creation of a new subject of rights and responsibilities. Advances in reproductive genetics pose new ethical and legal questions. They are expected to prevent the transmission of genetic diseases to progeny and also to improve genetically-endowed mental and physical attributes. Genetic selection and enhancement may affect a child’s identity, as well as the parent-child relationship. The authors are committed to a pluralistic approach that captures all aspects of this relationship in terms of moral virtues and principles. They elucidate that most of the conflicts between parental preferences and a child’s rights could be resolved with reference to the meaning and nature of procreation.

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The tremendous recent advances in biotechnology and knowledge derived from the Human Genome Project are expected to bring revolutionary changes to the practice of medicine and improve many aspects of our life, particularly with regard to our health. Many enthusiasts, on the one hand, expect that 21st century genomic medicine will open up new opportunities for us to live longer and healthier lives. Sceptics, on the other hand, point out that the analytical and clinical validity and utility of the genetic information obtained from the individual personal genome are still too weak. Nevertheless, there are certain aspects of human life in which genetic knowledge has gained special concern and has become crucial in making decisions of existential importance. Procreation is certainly one of them.

Reproductive genetic testing is the prominent branch of applied genetics in medicine which was primarily developed for the purpose of assessing reproductive risks by detecting foetal anomalies (Hodge 2003). One can distinguish three sorts of reproductive genetic testing: (1) preconception testing (carrier testing), aimed at identifying whether a patient is a carrier of a recessive disease gene that can be passed on to successive generations; (2) prenatal diagnosis of foetal cells (PND), aimed at identification of traits or conditions of a future child; and (3) preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), aimed at the identification of traits or conditions of an embryo formed by in vitro fertilization. PGD can be also used to analyse ova before fertilization to produce an embryo with or without...

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