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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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12 Procreative autonomy in the context of person-affecting and impersonal reasons for human enhancement

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According to common sense, one of the fundamental principles parents should be driven by is the principle that imposes caring of their child’s well-being. By definition, this principle is rarely conflicted with the parental autonomy principle that says that parents are the agents who have the primary right to decide over the well-being of their child. The parental autonomy principle requires that others should refrain from the actions that can infringe the well-being. The factor allowing the avoidance of most conflicts between the autonomy of parents and a child’s well-being is the assumption that the parents are more than obliged to take care of their child and it is their primary goal. Among the conflict situations discussed today, the greatest number of them does no refer to the parents’ attitude to the child’s well-being, but the possible lack of competence when it comes to defining the good, in particular in the context of biomedical choices. Among those situations one can enlist the refusal of a child’s medical treatment (Hickey & Lyckholm 2004, Diekema 2004) or the refusal of a mandatory vaccination.

One of the specific types of parental autonomy is procreative autonomy, understood as the possibility and entitlement to a free decision regarding the circumstances of having children (when, with whom), their number, their features, the kind of procreation (natural vs. supported) or their own role in this process (gamete donation, surrogating) (Dworkin 1994, Buchanan et al. 2006, Robertson 1996). Whereas the first of the aforementioned...

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