The Ethics of Genetically Enhancing Children Essay

The Ethics of Genetically Enhancing Children Essay

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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 decid...


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...ring, 6]. In this context, the veil of ignorance conceals from the parent the particular biases of society for certain traits that are otherwise not genuinely physically desirable. It is ethical to enhance the non-positional traits that remain through the veil, as long as the enhancement is available to everyone and there is no coercion or state-imposed plan to take away choice, because the individual benefits without negative effects on society.
Our guttural qualms may cloud our understanding about the ethical status of genetic enhancement. The technology is a tool which can be used ethically to promote well-being and provide everyone with greater opportunities. We must not be quick to condemn it. Its acceptance will require a shift in social norms, but not a shift the understanding of what it means to be an ethical human at its essence: rational and beneficent.

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