Saturday 30 October, 3.30pm until 5.00pm, Lecture Theatre 2
Advances in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) have opened up a new world of possibilities for people wanting to have children. It enables individuals to screen their potential children for certain disabilities and to choose the sex of their child in advance. But with these new choices come ethical dilemmas. Is it right for couples to ‘play God’ when it comes to creating new life, or are such decisions better handled by regulators and ethics committees? Does the prospect of screening out certain disabilities imply a ‘new eugenics’, where only the ‘right kind’ of children are brought into the world? What is the balance between supporting parents’ choices, and resisting social pressure to produce the ‘optimal’ child?
The debates around ART, where potential children are deliberately and scientifically created, relate to broader discussions about the role of science in human enhancement. As our understanding of genetics improves, there is the possibility of doing much more than identifying particular hereditary disabilities. The search is on for genetic causes of certain cancers, obesity, and other diseases. The hope is that these developments give the potential to create healthier human beings. But how far can we, and should we, hope to control for the myriad health problems that might afflict individuals at some point during their natural lives? How do we distinguish between enhancing the ‘natural’ health of future children, and using genetics to identify and manipulate what we previously considered to be features that were affected by social and cultural conditions and norms: for example, intelligence or appearance?
Listen to session audio:
professor of bioethics, Keele University; author, Choosing Tomorrow's Children: the ethics of selective reproduction
communications officer, Progress Educational Trust; webmaster, BioNews
|Dr Tom Douglas|
Wellcome Trust research fellow, Balliol College and Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford
Dr Ellie Lee
reader in social policy, University of Kent, Canterbury; director, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies
Should parents be free to create ‘saviour siblings’? To have boys and no girls? What about making sure their baby is deaf? A fascinating new book explores these modern moral dilemmas.John Gillot, spiked, 29 July 2010
A conference at the Royal Society of Medicine raised some interesting and important questions about how today’s society should view the role of genetic, chemical and behavioural techniques in shaping children’s health and behaviour.Jennie Bristow, Abortion Review, 6 July 2010
To what extent should parents be allowed to use reproductive technologies to determine the characteristics of their future children? And is there something morally wrong with parents who wish to do this?
Stephen Wilkinson, Oxford University Press, 18 February 2010
Opponents of biomedical enhancement often claim that, even if such enhancement would benefit the enhanced, it would harm others. But this objection looks unpersuasive when the enhancement in question is a moral enhancement — an enhancement that will expectably leave the enhanced person with morally better motives than she had previously.Thomas Douglas, Journal of Applied Psychology , 30 September 2008
Our correspondent meets the controversial philosopher John Harris, who argues that we have a moral and ethical duty to improve the human race by biologically enhancing our childrenAnjana Ahuja, The Times, 11 October 2007