The moral obligation to create children with the best chance of the best life

Bioethics. 2009 Jun;23(5):274-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2008.00687.x.


According to what we call the Principle of Procreative Beneficence (PB),couples who decide to have a child have a significant moral reason to select the child who, given his or her genetic endowment, can be expected to enjoy the most well-being. In the first part of this paper, we introduce PB,explain its content, grounds, and implications, and defend it against various objections. In the second part, we argue that PB is superior to competing principles of procreative selection such as that of procreative autonomy.In the third part of the paper, we consider the relation between PB and disability. We develop a revisionary account of disability, in which disability is a species of instrumental badness that is context- and person-relative.Although PB instructs us to aim to reduce disability in future children whenever possible, it does not privilege the normal. What matters is not whether future children meet certain biological or statistical norms, but what level of well-being they can be expected to have.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Beneficence
  • Child
  • Choice Behavior / ethics
  • Decision Theory
  • Disabled Children*
  • Dissent and Disputes
  • Ethical Analysis
  • Ethical Theory
  • Eugenics
  • Fertilization in Vitro / ethics
  • Genetic Testing / ethics
  • Humans
  • Intuition / ethics
  • Moral Obligations*
  • Motivation
  • Parents / psychology
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Preconception Care / ethics
  • Preimplantation Diagnosis / ethics
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / ethics
  • Quality of Life*
  • Reproduction / ethics*