Reproductive autonomy rights and genetic disenhancement: Sidestepping the argument from backhanded benefit

Journal of Applied Philosophy 21 (2):125–140 (2004)
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abstract John Robertson has famously argued that the right to reproductive autonomy is exceedingly broad in scope. That is, as long as a particular reproductive preference such as having a deaf child is “determinative” of the decision to reproduce then such preferences fall under the protective rubric of reproductive autonomy rights. Importantly, the deafness in question does not constitute a harm to the child thereby wrought since unless the child could be born deaf he or she would otherwise never have existed— his or her prospective parents would simply have chosen to abort. As such, for this child, being born deaf counts as a benefit, albeit of the “backhanded” variety, since the only other practical alternative is nonexistence. In what follows, I want to investigate this argument in detail. The target of my investigation will be the possible future use of gene therapy technology to “disenhance” one's offspring. I intend to show that the apparently unlimited right to reproductive autonomy, that is, the right to choose both the quantity and qualities of future offspring, entailed by the argument from backhanded benefit can in fact be “sidestepped” through considering what sorts of reproductive practices we as a society ought to allow.



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Deafness, culture, and choice.N. Levy - 2002 - Journal of Medical Ethics 28 (5):284-285.
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