Genetic Services, Economics, and Eugenics

Science in Context 11 (3-4):481-491 (1998)
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The ArgumentWhat are the aims of genetic services? Do any of these aims deserve to be labeled “eugenics”? Answers to these strenuously debated questions depend not just on the facts about genetic testing and screening but also on what is understood by “eugenics,” a term with multiple and contested meanings. This paper explores the impact of efforts to label genetic services “eugenics” and argues that attempts to protect against the charge have seriously distorted discussion about their purpose. Following Ruth Chadwick, I argue that the existence of genetic services presupposes that genetic disease is undesirable and that means should be offered to reduce it. I further argue that the economic cost of such disease is one reason why governments and health care providers deem such services worthwhile. The important question is not whether such cost considerations constitute “eugenics,” but whether they foster practices that are undesirable and, if so, what to do about them. The wielding of the term “eugenics” as a weapon in a war over the expansion of genetic services, conjoined with efforts to dissociate such services from the abortion controversy, has produced a rhetoric about the aims of these services that is increasingly divorced from reality. Candor about these aims is a sine qua non of any useful debate over the legitimacy of the methods used to advance them.



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Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.
Genethics: Moral Issues in the Creation of People.Joanna Pasek - 1993 - Philosophical Quarterly 43 (172):385.

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