Scientific developments in genetic research have raised much controversy in our era. The use of many methods of genetic intervention, mostly used for preventing, treating and curing diseases, has expanded to being used for methods of genetic enhancement. These methods can be used for creating the “perfect” baby or avoiding having a biologically disadvantaged child. The ethics of using genetic intervention has been, and continues to be, questioned. In Allen Buchanan et al’s essay, From Chance to Choice: Genetics and Justice, it discusses how genetic intervention “pushes the limits of ethical theory” (Buchanan et al 231). It discusses the importance of justice and preventing harm through genetics, what the limits should be in the “pursuit of ‘genetic perfection’ ” (232), and the “morality of inclusion” (232).
The ethical principles necessary for proper conduct in delivering the services of genetic intervention are justice and preventing harm. The importance of justice is essential because it encourages equal opportunities. With this and what is called the “level playing field” (230), the goal is to “eliminate or ameliorate the influence of some or [all] other social [factors] that limit opportunity over and above discrimination” (230). As long as genetic services are being used correctly, and not just for personal satisfaction, such as full body plastic surgery just to improve appearance, then everyone should be allowed to utilize these services without any reason of being excluded. When it comes to a just health care system, Norman Daniels’ theory is that “[it] should strive to remove barriers to opportunity that are due to disease” (230). He simply believes that no one should be discriminated for what sort of disease they have. All people and diseases should be treated equally. Another goal in genetic intervention is to prevent harm to offspring and others, and to avoid worsening one’s condition. Certain services, like terminating the birth of a fetus if technology proves that the child would turn out to be severely diseased or retarded, would not be considered preventing harm because there is no preexisting condition that can worsen if the person does not exist.
There have been many approaches to understanding genetic intervention. Two models were created from different points of view. The public health model was created to include the majority of the people that can benefit from the use of genetic intervention. Unfortunately, this view made a disregard for individual interests and involved “the risks of infringing liberty and of exclusion and discrimination increase[ing] dramatically” (228). The people who were considered to be a danger to society because they have diseases that can pass down generations would be excluded from using these services, and the people who only had infectious diseases that would transfer through contact would be the majority persons to be allowed to use genetic services. This view is a threat to society because it put restrictions on certain people that want to make use of genetic intervention. No justice can become of this model if people are going to be excluded for reasons that are not in their control, so there is no room for equal opportunity.
The personal service model was created to encourage individual autonomy. This leaves the people to choose if they want or need to use genetic intervention. The problem with this is that not everyone can afford these services and may be excluded. This model “ignores the obligation to prevent harm” (229) because it puts limitation on the availability of genetic services to people because of social and economic factors. It “may exacerbate inequalities in opportunities if [genetic intervention] is only available to the rich” (229). Who is to say that the rich would not use the services only to improve their appearances and not cure debilitating diseases, which affect the lower income people much more?
Both these models involve excluding certain people, which poses the risk of people being denied treatment, which may result in their conditions getting worse. These models are inefficient in exhibiting the importance of justice, equal opportunities and preventing harm. With these factors, genetic intervention “pushes the limits of ethical theory” (231). We become obligated to identify the “scope and limits of the obligation to prevent harm” (231) and to truly understand the “ethical theory” (231) of preventing harm. In order to meet these goals we need to “determine how… the conflicting values of reproductive freedom and the obligation to prevent harm limit each other” (231). We must also question “whether behavior is subject to ethical evaluation… if it worsens or betters the condition of an individual” (231). Understanding the theories of genetic intervention is left to an individuals self values because everyone thinks differently. I feel that the use of genetic intervention should be left to people to make their own decision as long as they are acting morally.
Although parents must be “concerned with preventing harm to their children” (232), they must also be concerned with “what is best for them[selves]” (232). But this may be viewed as unethical because it puts limits on the child’s future based on what decisions the parents make on the child’s life. There should be “limits on the pursuit of ‘genetic perfection’ ” (232) because while the goal of some genetic services are for improvement of adult and children’s’ lives, there may be a risk of creating a eugenic way of thinking. The goal in genetic intervention should not necessarily be “human perfection” (232), but more of an improvement in human life so everyone can live comfortably.
Another way genetic intervention “pushes the limits of ethical theory” (231) is by the idea of the “morality of inclusion” (232). While it is important to “distribute the burdens and benefits of a society” (232), we need to make sure that anyone participating in genetic intervention are effective participants. For example, if a service is used to cure and infectious disease, it wouldn’t make sense to just allow anyone to take part in using that service if that person only has a common cold. It is important that we “understand the... nature of disability” (232) and also the nature of particular diseases in order to encourage the cooperation from individuals in a society.
The use of genetic intervention clearly raises many ethical concerns. Buchanan et al’s essay encourages us to open up our minds so that we can better understand its purpose. While genetic intervention may “push the limits of ethical theory” (231), it is truly the people and their increased participation in genetic research that can improve our understanding of these limits. It is all about understanding the ethics of genetics, and understanding diseases and disabilities. Scientists greatly encourage human participation in all kinds of research so they can evaluate who and what gets a particular kind of attention. The only way there can truly be equal opportunity is if all kinds of people are willing to cooperate so they and scientists can understand exactly what they must to do to exhibit ethical practices. It is not only scientists that must act morally; it is society as a whole.