Genetic Interventions and The Ethics of Enhancement of Human Beings

Julian Savulescu

in The Oxford Handbook of Bioethics

Published in print February 2009 | ISBN: 9780199562411
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Genetic Interventions and The Ethics of Enhancement of Human Beings

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There has been considerable recent debate on the ethics of human enhancement. A number of prominent authors have been concerned about or critical of the use of technology to alter or enhance human beings, citing threats to human nature and dignity as one basis for these concerns. Frances Kamm has given a detailed rebuttal of Sandel's arguments, arguing that human enhancement is permissible. Nicholas Agar, in his book Liberal Eugenics, argues that enhancement should be permissible but not obligatory. He argues that what distinguishes liberal eugenics from the objectionable eugenic practices of the Nazis is that it is not based on a single conception of a desirable genome and that it is voluntary and not obligatory. This article takes a more provocative position. It aims to argue that, far from its being merely permissible, we have a moral obligation or moral reason to enhance ourselves and our children. Indeed, we have the same kind of obligation as we have to treat and prevent disease. It begins by considering the current interests in and possibilities of enhancement. It then offers three arguments that we have very strong reasons to seek to enhance.

Keywords: ethics of human enhancement; liberal eugenics; genetic intervention; medical technology; Frances Kamm; human nature

Article.  8512 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science ; Moral Philosophy

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