IVF – The New Eugenics?

[Leslie Carol Botha: Bioethicists argue that parents should be accountable for the health of their baby.  Agreed…. but to be obligated or to be told it is their ‘duty’ to use IVF to increase the child’s well-being, expand his or her self-determination, and reduce inequalities – has too much of a Eugenics overtone.]

Parents can have a duty to use IVF, say bioethicists

BioEdge – bioethic news from around the world
by Michael Cook | 13 Apr 2012

When two Italian-Australian utilitarian bioethicists declared in the Journal of Medical Ethics that infanticide (or after-birth abortion) was morally permissible, they lit the fuse on a world-wide storm of condemnation. But a proposal which may be even more controversial has popped up in the April issue of the American Journal of Bioethics. Two bioethicists contend that some parents are morally obligated to use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to create a healthy baby.

Janet Malek, of East Carolina University, and Judith F. Daar, of Whittier Law School, in California, argue that eventually the law should and will impose “a duty on IVF-reproducing parents to maximize the well-being of their future offspring by all reasonable means.” Why? The authors cite three reasons: increasing the child’s well-being, expanding his or her self-determination, and reducing inequalities.

If this reasoning evokes the notorious “after-birth abortion” article, this may be because the authors rely upon ground broken by Julian Savulescu, Guy Kahane and John Harris, three utilitarians working in Britain who influenced the authors of the previous article. The British bioethicists are pushing “procreative beneficence” — the notion that parents should endow their baby with the best possible qualities. Malek and Daar argue that this is morally good not only because it has good consequences (ie, stronger, healthier, more intelligent kids) but it also promotes fairness and autonomy.

The immediate concern is what to do for parents who are carriers of a severely disabling disorder like autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease. It seems clear enough to Malek and Daar that these parents are morally obliged to sift through embryos to find one which does not have the disease:

“prospective parents who make an independent decision to reproduce using IVF and who know or reasonably should know they are at substantial risk for transmitting a serious genetic anomaly to their offspring may be subject to legal liability for failing to utilize PGD to avoid birthing a child who suffers grave harm from the heritable condition.”

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.