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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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7 Spare embryos and parental obligations


During the in vitro process, anything from a couple to more than ten embryos are created. Following diagnosis, a number of these are chosen for implantation into the woman whilst the fate of the remainder lies in the hands of a number of other factors. Embryos which have been diagnosed as having morphological or genetic faults are not considered for implantation. The healthy remainder may be frozen in order to be used by the parents in order to ensure the pregnancy is a successful one or – in the long term- for further attempts to have children. If the parents do not plan to have any more children, the embryos may be frozen, given away for adoption or given over for research purposes.

In discussions on the moral permissibility of genetic selection, arguments concerning the embryos to be implanted tend to dominate the discussion. The arguments range from, on the one hand, impartial reasoning such as do the embryos have a moral status which requires them to be treated with respect by all rational agents to – on the other – the parental obligation to show unconditional love and to guarantee their right to an open future. The majority of these arguments make some reference to the number of embryos. Impartially recognising their moral status rules out actions which may lead to their death or prevent their development. In the instructions to be found in Dignitas Personae, the fate of excess embryos is defined as a grave injustice which,...

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