Journal of Applied Philosophy 25 (3):246-261 (2008)

abstract   This essay considers the moral status of certain practices that aim to enhance offspring traits. I develop an objection to offspring enhancement that draws on an account of the role morality of parents. I work out an account of parental ethics by reference to premises about child development and to observations about parenting culture in the United States. I argue that excellence in parenthood consists in a dual responsibility both to guide children toward the good life and to accept them as they are. I conclude that prenatal manipulation of healthy and normal characteristics in human offspring fails to balance the dispositional extremes of control and restraint to which many parents today are susceptible. I apply this account of good parenting to the challenging case of height enhancement for short but otherwise healthy children. Finally, I reply to objections, first, about the phenomenology of bearing normative obligations to people who do not yet exist and, second, about the moral logic of criticizing embryo selection in the context of assisted reproduction when we accept child selection in the context of adoption.
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