Clinical Commentary: The Law of Unintended Ethics

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 25 (1):16-18 (1997)
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The law of unintended consequences is generally applied to technological advances that solve one problem but cause another. In this view, the problem created may be worse than that which was solved, hence the law is used as an argument against technological advances. Concern about intent and consequence comes to mind when reading the article by Ronald Green on parental decision making and prenatal genetics. Green's analysis, combined with the realities of genetic practice, raises questions about parental power, eugenics, and the interests of children affected by genetic or congenital disorders. Green proposes rules and draws conclusions that are not useful for clinicians and that promise harm to families and individuals affected by genetic disorders. Green's analysis may be an example of a corollary that could be viewed as the Law of Unintended Ethics.Green's paper begins with an apparently contradictory dual thesis. First, he supports unfettered parental decision making about their fetuses and children. Second, he suggests that we should strive to give our children lives unimpaired by serious genetic disorders.



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