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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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11 Bioconservatism and the preference for status quo

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Against the background of all bioethical debates, the divide between the supporters and opponents of enhancing the human condition does not come as a surprise and may be interpreted as a new ground for the disputes between the proponents and opponents of the widest possible use of the achievements of biomedical sciences that have gone on for many years. To the former, the project concerning the enhancement of human capabilities in physical, cognitive or moral terms is the next step of applying constantly evolving knowledge and technology in order to improve the quality of human life. To the latter, any intervention should be preceded by careful reflection that allows to identify the possible risks and moral limitations of such of practices. Unlike most other bioethical discussions, the debate concerning the enhancement of human condition refers to interventions that, in most cases, are yet unavailable. Both sides use arguments based on the expected further development of biomedical sciences and technology, and the expected consequences of this development. An argument concerning the future impact of new activities, for which there is no empirical evidence of effectiveness, is always fraught with risk of utopian thinking or an a priori rejection of any changes. Between these extreme positions, there are those that offer arguments based on comparing the enhancement of the human condition with therapy and traditional ways of improving human capabilities. However, this middle path does not eliminate polarisation completely. Proponents of improving human nature often assume that there is no...

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