010. Prenatal screening

A discussion on early looks and tough decisions.


Quotes that made sense in context

“The idea being we can now peer into fetal situations and kind of see a little bit of what we think to be their future (or current states).”

“Thoughts? Is anyone swayed by that?” “I’m not. I don’t know the Bill of Rights”

“So independent of legal rights, because as far as laws are concerned that’s just arbitrary rules that we wrote down, in terms of just agency, is that different, do you have a right just as a conscious human being?”

“Where do you draw the line? Let’s say I have prenatal screening and I detect that my child might be lactose intolerant and I say ‘that sounds like a terrible existence: an existence without cheese. I should abort this baby…” “Do you have to draw a line? Why can’t I say I don’t want a lactose intolerant child?”

“I commit sins.” “Happens to the best of us.”

“I’m not for killing babies, I’ll just go ahead and say that.”

“To bring it back to the utilitarian argument, do we have an obligation to make not only good medical choices for prenatal screening as we currently do – to screen for significant disease, but if the technology improved such that you could control these traits in ways that don’t act before the potential for life stage – do we have a moral obligation to improve society beyond the scope of medical necessity?”

“It’s dangerously close to eugenics.”

“Can you think of a trait that a person would have that make them say ‘I wish I didn’t exist’?” “Life.”

“I want to go back to gay Einstein if no one minds.”

Questions to ponder

  1. Can one ethically/morally prefer to have one sex/gender of child as opposed another?

  2. The elimination of disease/disability is often given as a justification for prenatal genetic diagnoses. Moreover, this argument is used in favor of some selective abortions, such that if a fetus is exhibiting signs or genes that show it would have a disability later in life, that genetic alteration or selective abortion might be called upon. Is the argument-from-disability a philosophically sound argument for the implementation of prenatal genetic screening? Is its extension to use of genetic manipulation, genetic elimination, justifiable?

  3. If you could have known what sort of biological situation you were getting yourself into (please consider your past, current, and perceived future life) and you yourself could have changed it to one you might consider more desirable (being a man/woman, lacking a certain ailment, etc.), would you choose to make use of such information? Would you want to be aware of such information at all?

  4. What is the distinction, ethically speaking, between medical and non-medical choices?

  5. Were we to develop pre-prenatal screening techniques, such that we could choose what type of child we could/would have before conceiving of that child, what reservations in regards to prenatal screening would be alleviated? What new reservations would be added?

  6. How does the relative inequity of the availability of means in prenatal screening affect our ethical considerations? Put conversely, what if everyone had the means of controlling the birth of human beings they bring into this world?

  7. Do parents have a right (and/or a responsibility) to do all they can to ensure their child(ren) have the best possible lives, even if that means selecting from their best possible children?

  8. Is nature a just arbiter?

Essays of possible interest

  1. Prenatal diagnosis and selective abortion
  2. Genetics and reproductive risk
  3. Sex selection and preimplantation genetic diagnosis