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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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8 The question of justice in the debate over human enhancement


8.1 Introduction

Transhumanism can be defined as a movement composed of those advocating the use of all available technologies, including neuro-, bio- and nanotechnology, to enhance the human species (Birnbacher 2008). The form of human existence arising from the application of radical technological transformation termed ‘posthumanism’ is advocated by, among others, Nick Bostrom, Nicholas Agar, Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu (Bostrom 2008; Agar 1998; Persson & Savulescu 2012).1 It is pointed out that medical and genetic interventions could in the future enable the following forms of enhancement: enhanced cognitive abilities (including memory and learning skills), increased growth, improved hearing, improved musculature, increased immunity to diseases, enhanced predispositions toward experiencing moods (or emotional states), a reduced need for sleep, delaying the ageing process, etc. (DeGrazia 2012). Posthumanism aims to transcend the limitations built into the human condition we currently know of. Bostrom understands ‘posthumans’ to be individuals who possess at least one ‘posthuman’ ability, that is, an ability surpassing the normal abilities of the human species that may be health-related (e.g. a life expectancy of over 100 years), cognitive (e.g. a superior intelligence quotient) or emotional (e.g. superior empathy) (Bostrom 2008).

As Dietrich Birnbacher notes, ‘transhumanism’ and ‘posthumanism’ are internally paradoxical notions, because they suggest that the aforementioned interventions could lead to the creation of a new biological species or change human nature (Birnbacher 2008). However, the actual ability to transcend the limitations built into the human condition is a distinctive human trait, so...

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