The Ethics of the New Eugenics

The Ethics of the New Eugenics

Calum MacKellar
Christopher Bechtel
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 242
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qcw9j
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  • Book Info
    The Ethics of the New Eugenics
    Book Description:

    Strategies or decisions aimed at affecting, in a manner considered to be positive, the genetic heritage of a child in the context of human reproduction are increasingly being accepted in contemporary society. As a result, unnerving similarities between earlier selection ideology so central to the discredited eugenic regimes of the 20th century and those now on offer suggest that a new era of eugenics has dawned. The time is ripe, therefore, for considering and evaluating from an ethical perspective both current and future selection practices. This inter-disciplinary volume blends research from embryology, genetics, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and history. In so doing, it constructs a thorough picture of the procedures emerging from today's reproductive developments, including a rigorous ethical argumentation concerning the possible advantages and risks related to the new eugenics.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-121-1
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. A Note on the Text
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Abbreviations and Acronyms
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Selection strategies or decisions aimed at affecting, in manners which are considered to be positive, the genetic heritage of a child, a community or humanity in general have always represented a challenge to human beings from an ethical perspective. That challenge was the inspiration of many popular works of science fiction, such as Aldous Huxley’s bookBrave New World,¹ written in 1932, in which an organized society is deliberately created with different groupings of people designed to fulfil different roles. Another, more recent, example is the 1997 filmGattacain which a utopian society openly discriminates against those who are...

  7. The History of Eugenics
    (pp. 15-34)

    In examining and evaluating the new eugenics, a useful starting place is the history of eugenic programs.¹ Past attempts to better humanity, whether the individual or whole populations, serve as important mirrors for the present. This section looks, therefore, at how and why past eugenic programs were implemented. Such a tour of humanity’s dark past will highlight some of the risks of the present as well as possible directions for the future.

    Selective breeding in the human species was suggested at least as early as the Greek philosopher Plato (427 BCE–347 BCE), who believed that human reproduction should be...

  8. General Introduction to Eugenic Procedures
    (pp. 35-116)

    The topic of eugenics is generally perceived as being multifaceted, with different procedures being considered in both positive and negative ethical lights. The present moral distinction among these eugenic practices being made all the more difficult because of the abuses which took place in Nazi Germany which gave all forms of eugenics a very bad press. But some indirect eugenic practices, such as the selection of a partner, are generally seen as being acceptable by society even though they may not be recognized as having a eugenic component.

    However, some eugenic procedures in contemporary society do still receive negative attention....

  9. General Ethical Discussion
    (pp. 117-119)

    The different eugenic procedures presented above range from the already established to the highly speculative, and some may never become a reality.¹ But regardless of practicability, the various procedures are similar inasmuch as they each offer the option of selecting traits. The option of selecting is the central tenet of the new eugenics.² Currently, the primary (though not only) motivation driving many of these procedures is the desire to deselect entities (gametes, foetuses, embryos and even infants) that may mature into children with severe medical problems, the exception being the genetic modification of entities such as gametes, embryos, foetuses or...

  10. Arguments Supporting the New Eugenics
    (pp. 120-132)

    This section looks at some of the perceived positive returns of eugenic practices and why a real interest in selection is developing in certain sections of the general public. In the appeal such procedures may present, two points deserve attention. First, eugenic procedures may indeed facilitate the wellbeing of individuals and their families. Secondly, that access to eugenics may assist in the functioning of a balanced and durable society.

    Some commentators support eugenic practices by arguing that selection procedures improve the wellbeing of society by ensuring the birth of healthier children.¹ For example, since 1978, procedures such as IVF and...

  11. Arguments Opposing the New Eugenics
    (pp. 133-183)

    Having sketched some of the most important arguments supporting the new eugenics, attention now turns to arguments against the proposals. As will be clear, this section attempts to show that, in spite of the challenging arguments above, many of the procedures involved in the new eugenics should perhaps be excluded from biomedical programs. The arguments in this chapter consider eugenics from the perspective of (1) selected human individuals (including embryos and foetuses), (2) prospective parents and (3) society at large. As in the previous section, the arguments are not fully comprehensive but represent, instead, an attempt to marshal common and...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 184-195)

    The spectre of eugenics programs in the late nineteenth and twentieth-centuries, especially during Nazi-era Germany, cast a sinister shadow over the term ‘eugenic’ and its related practices. In the intervening years, many societies have assiduously distanced themselves from any semblance of eugenics. Sociologist Anne Kerr even quotes an unnamed senior geneticist in the United Kingdom as denying the existence of a new eugenics: ‘I think eugenics for me implies a population, a government, a scientifically led race towards something. I base my practice … around patient choice. And I think if we aim it at the individual without bias then...

  13. Appendix I. Past and Present Personalities Supporting Eugenic Policies
    (pp. 196-204)
  14. Appendix II. Scottish Council on Human Bioethics Recommendations on Eugenics
    (pp. 205-206)
  15. Glossary
    (pp. 207-211)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 212-228)
  17. Index
    (pp. 229-232)