Choosing disability: preimplantation genetic diagnosis and negative enhancement

J Law Med. 2007 Aug;15(1):89-102.


This article examines the unusual circumstance of what the author has tentatively termed "negative enhancement". This term is used to describe those instances where individuals seek to use preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to achieve outcomes that, commonly, are socially not preferred. In a recent survey by the Genetics and Public Policy Centre, it was found that 3% of IVF-PGD clinics in the United States reported having provided PGD to couples who seek to select an embryo for the presence of a particular disease or disability, such as deafness, in order that the child share the characteristic with the parents. The idea of "negative enhancement" is, therefore, both a paradox and a useful means to describe the hidden assumptions behind claims that enhancement technologies can only lead us in one direction -- towards a race of blond, blue-eyed, able-bodied, intellectually magnificent and athletically superior beings. In Australia there does appear to be a consensus that PGD should only be used to select against serious disability. This inevitably raises the question of how we define disability and who is best placed to make decisions about the kind of kin we want to create.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Blindness / genetics
  • Choice Behavior / ethics*
  • Deafness / genetics
  • Disabled Persons / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Disabled Persons / psychology*
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Ethics, Research*
  • Government Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Preimplantation Diagnosis / ethics*
  • Prejudice*
  • Social Desirability*
  • Social Isolation
  • United Kingdom