re: Transhumanist medical ethics?

J. Eric Mortensen (
27 Feb 99 14:21:47 +0100

>This is *not* to say that we would have the right to choose any
>traits we want. For example, deliberately creating a being that would
>suffer greatly with no chance of ending its life would typically be
>totally unacceptable. I even tend to think that in some cases we have
>an obligation to intervene to see to that such a being is not created.
>This has present applications. I think a strong case could be made
>that it is immoral or misguided to give birth to a baby that is known
>to have Downs Syndrom. When we get the opportunity to correct this
>defect on a fetus with genetic engineering, the obligation will become
>even stronger.

I think a moral obligation to perform genetic modifications in offspring would be to the detriment of society. First of all, I don't think people with Down's Syndrom (and/or other anomalies) suffer greatly. It seems to me that most of them enjoy life immensely. I would even speculate that people with Down's Syndrom are (statistically) relatively happier than the rest of us. This because their own expectations are relatively lower than average, and society's expectations of them are relatively lower than it is for "normal" people.

Second, it sounds like you want happiness to be made into a moral obligation?

Third, if we mandate that parents perform genetic modifications to their children, then someone must pay for them, and most likely that must be the parents themselves. But a parent may argue (plausibly) that the money spent on genetic modifications can be better spent on other things (better schooling, better housing etc.) Who shall decide what to spend on what? Parents or everyone else (which ultimately involves the state in some form).

On the other hand, I concede that it is without its problems to give parents a carte blanche on what to do and what not to do. Most people accept intervention if mothers abuse drugs while pregnant, for instance. I would probably favor a moral code that minimized the number of obligations a parent must have, since arguably what counts as an important intervention will be so difficult to agree on.