Genetic engineering to avoid genetic neglect: from chance to responsibility

Bioethics. 2010 May;24(4):160-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2008.00685.x.


Currently our assessment of whether someone is a good parent depends on the environmental inputs (or lack of such inputs) they give their children. But new genetic intervention technologies, to which we may soon have access, mean that how good a parent is will depend also on the genetic inputs they give their children. Each new piece of available technology threatens to open up another way that we can neglect our children. Our obligations to our children and our susceptibilities to corresponding legal and moral sanctions may be about to explosively increase. In this paper I argue that we should treat conventional neglect and 'genetic neglect' - failing to use genetic intervention technologies to prevent serious diseases and disabilities - morally consistently. I conclude that in a range of cases parents will have a moral obligation to use genetic treatments to prevent serious disabilities in their children. My particular focus is on prenatal interventions and their impact of the bodily integrity of expectant mothers. I conclude that although bodily integrity constrains moral obligations, it is outweighed in a range of cases.

MeSH terms

  • Child Abuse / ethics*
  • Disabled Persons
  • Female
  • Fetal Therapies / ethics*
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / prevention & control*
  • Genetic Engineering / ethics*
  • Human Rights
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Moral Obligations*
  • Personhood
  • Pregnancy