Analysis of the Bioethical Issues in Gattaca
Biology is the science of life. Technology uses science to solve problems. Our society has progressed in its understanding of life to the point that we are able to manipulate it on a fundamental level through technology. This has led to profound ethical dilemmas. The movie Gattaca explores some important bioethical issues that are currently the focus of much dispute. The underlying thematic issue presented is the question of the extent to which biologically inherent human potential determines the true potential of a person. Perhaps the most controversial issue in Gattaca is the use of genetic engineering technology in humans to create a more perfect society; this is, essentially, a new method of Eugenics. Another related issue seen in the movie is that of pre-natal selection. Through the use of the same or similar technologies, parents are able to choose the characteristics with which their children will be born.
The controversy of these issues stems from the immense potential in genetic sciences for both positive use and harmful misuse. Though the questions and fears of critics reflect the wisdom of caution, the potentially unlimited benefits mandate that we pursue these technologies.
The central subject of Gattaca’s plot is human potential. This is an important bioethical issue and is basically an example of the classic argument: Nature v. Nurture. The debate is of the role of nature compared to the role of environment in the shaping of personalities and other mental and physical characteristics. Psychologists have argued on this issue extensively. In the context of genetics and the movie Gattaca, the debate is of the respective roles of original genetic makeup and environment in determining the true potential of a person. The movie’s theme is “There is no gene for the human spirit.” The main point asserted by the movie is that determination, human spirit, and other factors not genetically inherited substantially affect a person’s abilities and potential for excellence. This is shown through the accomplishments of the genetically inferior main character, Vincent. Vincent was naturally conceived and born, leaving flaws in his genetic code that could have been eliminated through engineering. Notwithstanding, he is able to outperform his genetically engineered colleagues in the Gattaca space program. The movie is primarily about the difficulties he faces because of discrimination that results from judging a person’s worth based only on their genetic profiles. Many fear that this sort of discrimination could become a reality in our future. Legislation has already been passed to prevent discrimination based on genetic testing. In the movie this sort of legislation existed but was ignored. Obviously, the plot would have been much different if such legislation were adequately enforced.
Eugenics is the name given by Francis Galton to a theory for improving humanity through "judicious matings... to...