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The Ethics Of Genetically Enhancing Children

1244 words - 5 pages

The term designer children is unnerving at first to many. The idea of parents designing the genetic makeup of their offspring makes children seem like a commodity in a genetic free market. Thoughts of a dystopian society like the one in the film “Gattaca” come to mind. However, taking an immediate repugnant stand against genetic enhancement is not well-founded. A more open-minded inspection of the issue reveals that the idea of parents improving their children’s life prospects through genetic engineering (provided it is safe) is, at its core, not unethical. In fact, some genetic enhancement in addition to correcting deleterious genes to prevent disease is a moral obligation. It is moral to make rational decisions using the science and technology known to us to improve the lives of humans and promote well-being. Genetic enhancement, if used wisely, does not violate the right of a child to an open future and rather can provide more opportunities.
Well-being, not just health is valuable. The main point of curing a disease is to improve the patient’s well-being so that the person may live and enjoy life on a more profound level. With this perspective, it is an ethical responsibility to improve well-being and not just correct health problems. Consider the following thought-experiment. Suppose humans, designing a society without knowledge of their personal roles in it, had two options: (1) any member upon entering society is assigned a potential for great well-being drawn from a normal distribution, or (2) every member is provided a high potential for great well-being. The later choice is clearly the better one, and refusing it would be unethical. Our own society will have to make this choice in the near future, with regard to deciding whether to allow genetic enhancement, as biotechnology will make its possibility inevitable. As Savulescu argues, agreeing with the presented viewpoint: humans should revolutionize natural selection, which is indifferent to well-being, to instead select children not only with the greatest chance of surviving but also with the greatest opportunities available for a good life [Savulescu, 3].
Genetic enhancement is just another form of enhancement which has the benefit of the child in mind. There are many others: education, medical care, extra-curricular activities, etc. As Goering puts it, a parent does not blink when they give the child vitamin supplements, vaccinations, and dental enhancements (e.g., braces) [Goering, 2]. Imposing parental treatment is a part of being human and is ethical when the intentions are beneficent. There is no real difference in changing attributes of a child for the better at the genome level, or once the child is born. If administering growth hormones to young children to prevent them from being too short [Simon] is justifiable, then so is germline genetic modification of height to produce the same result. Or, if parents are fine with the installation of braces to straighten their...

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