The technologies available to aid in diagnosing genetic diseases and disorders have developed extraordinarily over the years. As a result, one topic up for discussion is how the technology should be used in the realm of diagnosing children before birth, mainly, using it to selectively screen embryos for genetic diseases. Leon Kass is one author who opposes genetic testing. He provides two main reasons why he feels it is morally wrong to use genetic screening on unborn children. This paper will examine the main reasons Kass provides for his viewpoint, critically evaluate them, and show that Kass is correct in his first main point, while his second main point may have broad ...view middle of the document...
He argues that especially in a case where the parents may have wanted to undergo genetic testing, but couldn’t afford it, didn’t live close enough to a facility with the technology, or possibly did attempt the testing, but it later proved to have been inaccurate, will be exceedingly likely to be prejudiced against their own child. He feels that if testing became commonplace, to the point where the amount of affected individuals dropped dramatically, those who accidentally “fell through the cracks” would not get a fair opportunity at life.
Furthermore, he says that for parents who were aware of the fact that their child would have a particular disease, but wanted the baby and proceeded with the pregnancy, the child will be treated fairly by the parents, but will be persecuted mercilessly by outsiders. Those suffering will feel like they shouldn’t be here, or are less valuable than everyone else is. The feelings of unwontedness could easily result in the child being resentful to the parents. Since they have a disorder that few others have due to genetic testing, they would not have a group that they could belong to, they would be one of the few “abnormals” in a sea of normal, healthy people who can’t relate to what they are experiencing,
In a similar line of thought, Kass says that those who were born prior to their illness being intentionally selected against, could easily begin to feel like an abandoned, unwanted group, who would be slowly ostracized from, and ridiculed by, society as that disease became scarce. They would have their own unit, but nobody would be looking out for them. As a result, they would have an extremely difficult time continuing to lead a productive, enjoyable life, as the opportunities that used to be available to them were discontinued since that disease was no longer one of concern.
Kass’s second main point is how people use language of possession and identity to describe other individuals. Kass is concerned by how easily people tend to glide from possession to identity. For example, someone could say, “she has autism,” and signify possession, but a brief moment later say, “she is autistic,” and signify identity. Kass argues that since people switch so hastily from one to another, that when a particular syndrome is selected against, people will begin to view those affected with the disorder as the illness itself, rather than keeping them as separate entities. For example, they will say, “we need to prevent the occurrence of diabetics;” instead of “we need to prevent the occurrence of diabetes.” In the first version, the person becomes the illness, while in the second version, the illness is its own entity.
To summarize, Kass’s overarching concern is that genetic testing is morally wrong due to the result of how those who are living with diseases that have selected against will be treated by society, and how people verbally express the need to prevent the occurrences of certain conditions by making the disorder the...