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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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3 Sex as a criterion for progeny selection


The issue of progeny selection according to the criterion of sex is often labelled in the literature as sex selection. Yet what is at issue here is not the selection of a certain trait, in this case, sex, but rather the selection of progeny of a specific sex. There are currently different ways of performing sex selection, of which the following methods are often singled out: a) postnatal; b) prenatal; c) preimplantation; d) preconception.

Selection following birth either involves infanticide or the abandonment of children of an unwanted sex, as has long been practised in Asian countries (mainly China and India), and, despite the appearance of prenatal methods, the scale of this phenomenon has not greatly changed (Sen 2009). This method is the most repulsive from an ethical standpoint and widely condemned.

Prenatal methods involve establishing a child’s sex during pregnancy using Prenatal Diagnosis (PND) and taking a decision, based on this information, to remove the foetus in the event that the sex turns out to be not what was desired. For obvious reasons, this is a very controversial method criticised by both opponents of abortion in general and opponents of using the sex criterion as a basis, specifically, for abortion. In countries in which abortion is permitted on request, like, for example, the USA, it is difficult to introduce comprehensive regulations prohibiting abortion on the grounds of sex, because there would be a need, on a case by case basis, to acquire reliable...

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